If there was one show in the last year almost everybody talked about, it was certainly Fox Network’s new series “Ally McBeal”. The show tells the story of a young woman working for a Boston law firm, trying to be successful in the courtroom as well as in her love life, succeeding in the former rather than the latter. On her first day in the new job for example she finds out that her ex-boyfriend Billy (Gil Bellows) works there as well as his new wife, the smart and beautiful Georgia (Courtney Thorne-Smith of “Melrose Place”). Since Ally (Calista Flockhart) still has feelings for Billy, treating him and Georgia as colleagues of course isn’t quite so easy and the three find themselves in a lot of awkward situations.
Trying to figure out what genre “Ally McBeal” belongs to, is not so easy. On the first look it might appear to be a courtroom drama due to its hour-long format and trials taking place in every episode. But there is also a comedy side to “Ally McBeal”. Her struggle with life is shown in a humorous (often even slapstick) way and other characteristics of a comedy, like “childish behavior of the protagonist” or “lack of experience with the other sex” (Kaminsky 1985, p. 137-139) can be found as well.
Although the show won two Golden Globes in the comedy categories in 1997, “Ally McBeal” should rather be labeled as a “dramedy” due to its mixture of humor and serious issues. The genre of “dramedy” is a combination of drama and comedy and had its (short) heyday during the 1980s when it was praised as a fresh recipe to address an upscale audience. “Ally McBeal” does a very good job in reviving this genre, making its audience laugh as well as reflect or even cry.
One reason for its amazing success might be the very good cast of “Ally McBeal”. Especially Calista Flockhart, who plays Ally, does an outstanding job in making her character very believable and sympathetic. Her confused look and the way she strokes her hair out of her face or nervously plays with her necklace have almost become her trademark. Apart from her Golden Globe Award she was also nominated for an Emmy as best actress in a comedy, which undermines her ability to bring a character to life.
 Although shows like “M*A*S*H” or “Hill Street Blues” mixed funny and sad moments before, the first shows that were labeled as “dramedies” were “Moonlighting”, NBC’s “The days and nights of Molly Dodd”, CBS’s “Frank’s Place” and ABC’s “Hooperman”. While hailed by the critics only a few of these shows stayed longer than one season.
- Quote paper
- Christoph Koch (Author), 1998, "Ally McBeal". Critique Of A Prime Time Network Television Program, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/3939