Wait, There’s An Ally McBeal Reboot In The Works?

Reports state that Calista Flockhart could be dusting off those iconic short skirt suits.

Ally McBeal

by Guy Pewsey |

In 1997, a young lawyer named Ally McBeal arrived on our televisions, and changed television forever. Now, almost twenty years since she said goodbye, it looks like she's set for a return.

Reports are swirling that the legal comedy is being rebooted, with original star Calista Flockhart set to be involved. Original show runner David E. Kelley has, after all, given his approval. 'I’d be open to the idea of Ally McBeal being done again, but I don’t think it should be done by me,' he told The Hollywood Reporter in 2018. 'If it were going to be done, it really should be done by a woman. If it’s going to be new, it should be new and different. And I did it: 100 hours.'

For now, it's early days. The reports have no official sourcing and reps for Calista have not provided further comment. But David's insistence that a woman should helm a hypothetical reboot is a positive sign that Ally could be in good hands. The programme is, after all, something of a contemporary minefield.

Cast your mind back to 1997. The pilot episode of Ally McBeal saw our plucky heroine leave her law firm after being sexually assaulted by her boss. She moved to a new firm run by an old law school buddy, and walked into a hotbed of impropriety. In the 90s, it seemed fun. Everyone was sleeping with everyone. They all shared a bathroom, in which they would talk out their many inappropriate actions before heading downstairs to drink and dance and frot to the music of Vonda Shephard. They picked absolutely mad cases. Ally and Georgia - the wife of Ally's ex and supposed great love Billy - once expressed their frustration with the situation by beating each other up. Ally was once held in contempt for wearing short skirts. She expressed biphobic sentiments and there was a tinge of transphobia throughout. But, in the context of the time, it all felt whimsical and light, and the show became an absolute sensation. But now? That tone and many of those storylines would seem iffy at best.

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CREDIT: Ally McBeal

Ally McBeal

That's not to do Ally McBeal a disservice. I'm not kidding when I say that I think it changed television forever. Ally was a classic lead character in many ways: she was gorgeous and funny and the world revolved around her. But she was also smart as hell, had an iron will and had no interest in settling. She wanted love, yes, and thought about it constantly. But she also wanted to succeed professionally. Vitally, she was in her own little world. She hallucinated - the giant CGI baby, the flaming arrows, the unicorn - and was largely unembarrassed about the way she saw the world. I truly don't think it would be an exaggeration to say that Ally was a pioneer when it came to women in television. I look at the eponymous Fleabag, at Meredith Grey of Grey's Anatomy, at Liz Lemon, at Leslie Knope, and I see women who owe something to that short-skirted young lawyer. Some share her unapologetic honesty or her hopeless romance. Others have her refusal to compromise in a male-dominated industry. Her feminism had its issues, but it was the 90s, and she was written by a man.

Ally McBeal wasn't the perfect show, but I loved it. Millions of people did. Maneuvering a return will be tricky. Will viewers care about a fifty something woman who sees virtual babies? Will she still pine for Billy, actual decades after his death? Will there be a reckoning for past behaviours? Will Jane Krakowski and Lucy Liu - two vital cast members for getting the whimsical-to-sharp comedic ratio right - be persuaded back? Whatever the answers, I will welcome Ally back with open arms. After all, I've been down this road...

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