Ally McBeal

In its first season, Ally McBeal made more than waves, it created tsunamis. David E. Kelley's quirky show was held up as a symbol of the postmodern woman, a commentary on the state of feminism, even a testament on the inner workings of the American workplace. So can Fox's Ally make as big a splash in its second season? "I don't think you can think about it," says co-executive producer Jeffrey Kramer. "You have just got to go out and make it and don't look back."

Much of the cast followed that philosophy this summer, spending their hiatus on other projects. Calista Flockhart, who plays Ally, filmed "A Midsummer Night's Dream" with Michelle Pfeiffer (Kelley's wife). Gil Bellows, who plays Billy, finished work on "Judas Kiss," a drama that costars Emma Thompson. Lisa Nicole Carson (Renee) filmed "Life," a comedy with Eddie Murphy. When the Ally cast returned to the set in late July, "it was like, 'We have to come back to work so we can get relaxation from our vacations,'" says Jane Krakowski, who plays Elaine. Krakowski spent her summer working on "Go," a comedy costarring Scott Wolf from Party of Five and Katie Holmes from Dawson's Creek.

Producers are keeping relatively mum on details of this season's storylines. "The lawyers will take on interesting cases that permeate our own workplaces and living rooms," Kramer says. "And Ally will experience the ups and downs, angst and joy." Hmm, just about the only major clue that there will be some disruption in Ally's life is the pricey new penthouse she will move into with Renee. "It's humongous," Krakowski says. "They've got the greatest apartment ever. Either Ally got a huge pay raise or somebody died." A sign that things won't be so smooth for Ally: Tracey Ullman is expected to return as her therapist.

In a major cast change, Portia de Rossi ("Sirens") joins the cast in the September 14 season premiere as Nelle Porter, a "rainmaker" who is brought in to the firm to boost its fortunes and shake things up a bit. "Nelle's really a strong, confident young woman," de Rossi says. "She's real ambitious. But she's by no means a Rosalind Shays [from Kelley's L.A. Law years]. She's not a bitch at all." Something tells us the other women at Cage & Fish will beg to differ. De Rossi, who went to law school in her native Melbourne, Australia, for a year, says her first TV court appearance is "such a good case that I have a friend who just graduated and I was gloating because I had a better case than she did."

Matt Says: Can't wait to see how long it takes for the ever-insecure Ally to be "snappish" with the new girl in town. And Nelle is advised to check the elevator each time she steps in: Remember when Rosalind Shays got the shaft?