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20th Century Fox presents
Ally McBeal (1997)

"You know what makes my problems bigger than anyone else's? They're mine."
- Ally McBeal (Calista Flockhart)

Review By: Kevin Clemons   
Published: October 05, 2000

Stars: Calista Flockhart
Other Stars: Gil Bellows, Greg Germann, Jane Krakowski, Courtney Thorne-Smith, Peter MacNicol, and Lisa Nicole Carson
Director: James Frawley, Michael Schultz, Joe Napolitans, Allan Arkush, Dennie Gordon, and Jonathan Pontell

Manufacturer: DVCC
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (sexuality, adult themes)
Run Time: 04h:30m:00s
Release Date: January 11, 2000
UPC: 024543000747
Genre: television


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B A-B+C+ C+

DVD Review

I will be the first to admit that I am not an avid television watcher. If it weren't for Sportscenter, The Sopranos and a bit of The Kids in The Hall, my television would act mainly as a DVD viewer. But after watching six random episodes of Ally McBeal, I am now convinced that I have to add yet another show to my viewing calendar.

Featuring six of the early episodes, this two-disc set from Fox is a great way to watch the show. Divided up with four 45-minute shows on disc 1 and two shows on disc 2, this disc set is a must have for any fan of the show (although a full season set would have been better).

Pilot:
Directed by: James Frawley
When a senior associate harasses Ally at her job, she confronts the partners, it backfires and she loses her job. When she bumps into an old classmate, Richard Fish (Germann), he offers her a position working for his new firm. While being introduced to her fellow associates, she finds that her high school and college love Billy (Bellows) is not only working at her new firm, but he is also married.

The Attitude
Directed by: Michael Schultz
Ally represents a Jewish woman who needs her Rabbi to grant her a spiritual release from her marriage to her comatose husband. Ally goes to the Rabbi's office to find out why he is being so rigid and in turn angers him to the point where he wants to go out with Ally. Meanwhile, Georgia (Thorne-Smith) is the target of a senior partner's wife's insecurities.

Cro-Magnon
Directed by: Allan Arkush
Ally discovers that her biological clock is ticking like a time bomb, creating strange impulses in her. During a sculpting class with live nude male models, she and Renee become intrigued by one particular male model. Meanwhile, Ally begins to see the now famous "Dancing Baby."

Silver Bells
Directed by: Joe Napolitans
Fish hands Ally a case of a threesome looking for a legally approved three-way marriage. Georgia then insists on having a conversation with Ally and Billy about their three-way relationship. This all adds up to a very unhappy Christmas. Except for Elaine who spends most of the episode looking for back up singers for her rendition of I saw mommy Kissing Santa Claus.

Theme of Life
Directed by: Dennie Gordon
Ally, Georgia and Renee sign up for a kick boxing class and Ally and Georgia wind up having to fight each other because they're both beginners. Ally takes on a case about an attractive surgeon accused of performing an unauthorized and controversial transplant procedure. Cage insists it's time for her to visit with his "smile" therapist, Tracy (Tracy Ullman), and she agrees.

The Playing Field
Directed by: Jonathan Pontell When Ally is a passenger in a car accident with a client, a handsome doctor who she finds herself attracted to. She wants to handle the case herself, but finds she can't. Ally confides in her "therapist" that she is attracted to the doctor and is enthusiastically encouraged to use her sex appeal to take the initiative with him.

Ally McBeal is a terrific show with great writing and an even better cast. Flockhart is terrific as Ally and has since become a household name. Bellows and Thorne-Smith, both of whom are no longer on the show, are fine as Billy and Georgia. And both Greg Germann and Peter MacNichol steal the show with their great roles as Richard Fish and John Cage.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: A-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: Each of the six episodes is presented in their original aspect ratio of 1.33:1. I did notice a lot of softness in the episodes, but other than that these are great transfers. Colors are vibrant, black level is good but not great, dark scenes are presented with very little grain. No pixelization or artifacting can be found in any of the episodes. A very good transfer.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: Presented with a Dolby Surround 2.0 mix that was presented with the original television broadcast, as one might expect this DVD creates something less than an all out sonic experience. The surrounds rarely come alive and are for the most part silent. The dialogue is the true star of this mix as it comes across very clean and understandable. This is not a television show that needs a complete 5.1 experience to get its point across. This 2.0 channel mix is a fine compliment to the episodes.

Audio Transfer Grade: C+

 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 0 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English and Spanish with remote access
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL
Layers Switch: Unknown

Extra Extras:
  1. Searchin My Soul music video by Vonda Shepard
  2. Preview for Ally McBeal: The Official Guide
Extras Review: The extras on this disc are presented on the second disc of the two-disc set. Included are both the Vonda Shepard music video for the title song Searchin My Soul as well as a preview for a book entitled Ally McBeal: The Official Guide. Both the video and book preview are a nice extra for true fans of the show, but I can't help but wonder where the audio commentary by David E. Kelley was. Oh well, I guess when you are married to Michelle Pfeiffer you have better things to do.

Extras Grade: C+

 

Final Comments

This is a nice DVD for fans of the show, or for fans of great television. With both this set as well as the season one set of The X Files, Fox has proven themselves as one of the leading DVD studios for both television and film. I hope that Fox revisits this series as a full season box set, though. Now if we could only get The Simpsons on DVD sometime soon.

 


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