Can "Ally McBeal' punt?

Fox sends its high-rated law show onto the field at Candlestick and it's all downhill from the national anthem on

She was standing on the sidelines at Sunday's 49er game with the Atlanta Falcons. "Ally McBeal's" Jane Krakowski (she plays Elaine, Ally's off-the-wall secretary) had just finished jazzing up "The Star-Spangled Banner" and had been roundly booed for her trouble. And Griffith said, very sadly, "When are they going to learn? You don't screw around with the national anthem."

Indeed. Krakowski was so close to tears when she came off the field, and probably mortified down to her socks, that at halftime - when the Fox network that was broadcasting the game did its hit show promo (costumed characters from "The Simpsons" and "King of the Hill" and cast members from "Ally" as well as "The 10 o'Clock News" anchors, Griffith and Dennis Richmond) - she was noticeably absent.

Krakowski has now entered the annals of celebrities who have come undone by the anthem, including Robert Goulet, who forgot the words (he's Canadian), and Roseanne, whose shrieking, crotch-grabbing version is one of the all-time grossest public moments.

The days of a celebrity singer/ player (and Whitney Houston and Jimi Hendrix come to mind) free-handing the anthem are over. We don't burn flags anymore either. And when you consider how conservative Niners fans are . . . oh well, nobody told her.

And the day, albeit cloudy and then wet, started out with such promise.

KTVU hosted a tailgate party near the Limo Lot for Fox folk and the "Ally" stars - Krakowski; Gil Bellows, who plays Billy, Ally's ex-boyfriend and law partner; and Portia de Rossi, who plays Nelle Porter, the icy new lawyer on the show, the one with all that long, blond hair.

Lunch was open-faced Italian sandwiches and killer tiramisu from Kuleto's (although Polish dogs and hot chocolate would have been apt). "This is a $3,000 tailgate," said KTVU PR guy Kenny Wardell, "I hope somebody shows up for it." Moot point. We barely had a chance to wolf it down before we were summoned to the sidelines, where the cast was being interviewed for television.

The one thing you notice about Krakowski (when she isn't looking as if she got a death sentence) is how much she resembles a Siamese cat - blond-on-brown hair and ice-blue eyes. Krakowski's character pushes the envelope for aggressive weirdness each week. "She has had more influence on me," said the actress. "She's made me more gutsy. Part of what makes "Ally McBeal' "Ally McBeal' is that all the characters say shocking things as a matter of everyday occurence. I'm lucky to have a character that gets to walk in at the end of a scene and set off fireworks."

I wonder if Elaine would have been as crushed as Jane was. What the Niner fans didn't realize is that Krakowski sang the anthem in character. At least I think she did.

As for de Rossi - at 25 she is the youngest member of the "Ally" cast and one of the tallest. "It's a deliberate character thing," she says. "They want me to be taller than the boys."

As the newest member of the cast, along with Lucy Liu, de Rossi said fitting into that well-oiled ensemble was "like being the new kid in school. But they were welcoming and loving." (It's a true test of acting when Jane as Elaine says to Ally - Calista Flockhart - "We're all on the same page here, aren't we? We hate her.")

Then there's the hair thing. The week the character was introduced, she had her smooth blond hair fastened tightly into a sleek French twist. In the bathroom (the unisex bathroom), she lets her hair down, literally, in front of Georgia (Courtney Thorne-Smith), who cut her long blond tresses as a plot point last year. The look on Georgia's face was fraught with a double meaning.

"Yes, my hair is major," Thorne-Smith says, pulling some of the said locks out of a huge, fluffy purple Mongolian lamb muffler. "I've only cut it twice in my life. It's very expensive hair. It's product, product, product."

De Rossi speaks with a very American accent. Aussie-born and raised, she's been able to leave Melbourne behind. She was, at one time, a law student. "When I was in school, the one show I watched was "L.A. Law,' written by David Kelley, who writes our show. All my friends from school I graduated with - well, I've got better cases than they'll ever have. I'm arguing First Amendment and what are they doing? Divorce. Wills."

The bulk of the "Ally" cast are either old Broadway hands or have had film experience. Gil Bellows, 31, was cast after he appeared in "The Shawshank Redemption" and "Miami Rhapsody."

"None of us are kids," he said, looking very much like one with a backwards Blue Marlin S.F. Seals baseball cap on his head. As the resident hunk on the show, Bellows had a few trenchant words for those who have complained about Ally's short-short skirts and her voracious desire to get married.

"Feminists miss the point," said Bellows. "To be political in this day and age doesn't mean you can't have a sense of humor. It's a shame they're so reactionary. If "Ally' were the perfection representation of a real person, the show would be real boring." Well, just for the record: It's not.

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1998 San Francisco Examiner