Case Number 20432: Small Claims Court


Fox // 2001 // 945 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Brett Cullum // January 3rd, 2011

The Charge

"Sometimes, when you hold out for everything, you walk away with nothing." -- Ally McBeal

The Case

Ally McBeal was a watershed moment for television, and it became a pop culture phenomenon. Calista Flockhart was held up as a post-feminist icon, a thin and attractive career woman who seemed as concerned with romance as her job as a trial lawyer in Boston. She was well served by the whip smart writing and the chance for her to showcase a talent for physical comedy. David Kelly wrote and produced the show, and the crazy courtroom antics that became his trademark emerged easily as a natural part of the series. You can see a direct connection to Boston Legal with the "way out there" cases presided over by eccentric judges. On the flip side the frank sexual talk and the female bonding set the stage for Sex and the City. The relationships were always shifting, sexual tension drove the entire show, and often the legal battles reflected and editorialized on the romantic comedy. It was a brilliant mix of funny and heartache and is a show that many have been clamoring to add to their collection.

There has been a long, protracted battle to get Ally McBeal to DVD and it involved struggles with the rights to the original music, which was a key part of the show. Almost every other country in the world has had the full run of Ally McBeal on shelves for years. Here in the United States Fox DVD released a huge box set containing all five seasons plus a disc of bonus material including the crossover episode with The Practice. They've been slow to release each season individually and each year is just a release of the season with no extras. Big fans will already own the box set, so it is puzzling to think who exactly the audience is for these year by year releases. But if you're looking to buy each one individually, here's a look at season five on DVD.

Ally McBeal was wrapping things up by the fifth year. Most of the cast became just background noise for a bunch of new people who really weren't nearly as funny or cool as the original players. But the thing was the former leads were getting movie deals, and especially people like Lucy Liu were striking out to bigger projects like Charlie's Angels. The fabulous romance of season four had fizzled, and so they brought in rocker Jon Bon Jovi to be Ally's new surprisingly bland love interest. Ally was still at home on Monday nights on Fox, but the ratings were slipping. The new cast members introduced in the series premiere were Julianne Nicholson (Law and Order: Criminal Intent) as Jenny Shaw, Josh Hopkins (Brothers and Sisters) as Raymond Millbury, and James Marsden (Superman Returns) as Glenn Foy. They proved so unpopular that they were written out halfway through the season. And so Christina Ricci (Monster) and Hayden Panettiere (Heroes) became recurring characters.

Why would you want to buy Season Five on DVD?

* It's a total mess, but the star power was never higher. All of the original cast appear at one time or another, and the guest stars are huge. Dame Edna or Barry Humphries, Matthew Perry, Elton John, and Josh Groban all appear in addition to all the others mentioned in the synopsis.

* It's really the last season, and they do a nice job with the season finale. They knew it was going down, and so they got a chance to say good bye the way they wanted to.

Why would you not want to buy Season Five?

* It's a mess. Season Five has some major improbable turns, and it feels creatively bankrupt from the start.

The transfers on the DVDs look good. There is a nice widescreen treatment, and the colors are warm and well rendered. On DVD an overall softness to much of it is showcased, but it's the purposeful gauzy dream world that they always strived to create. Everybody was lit to look good, and that meant some dim scenes and just slightly out of focus close shots. It is what television looked like circa the late '90s and early '00s. There are no extras at all, simply the episodes one after the other.

Ally McBeal: Season Five really only works if you're a completist, and those of that ilk already bought the big box set a year ago. Why you'd want the messiest season of the show is baffling, unless you happen to be a really big Bon Jovi fan...snd even then I'd question your judgment. But Ally McBeal still has a bit of charm, and some of the spunk that made it must-see TV for those first couple of years.

The Verdict

Guilty of being the biggest mess of a year ever for McBeal.

Review content copyright © 2011 Brett Cullum; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2016 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Judgment: 77

Perp Profile
Studio: Fox
Video Formats:
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (French)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Spanish)

* English
* Spanish

Running Time: 945 Minutes
Release Year: 2001
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks
* None

* IMDb