The Art and Argument of Ally McBeal
Publication Year: 2007
Published by: University of Texas Press
Introduction: Why Ally?
Why read a book about a television series that is no longer being aired? Pop culture, by its very nature, moves on to the next hot item, feeding the hunger for the new. But eventually some television series become so old that they are “new” again and can be reclaimed as “classic,” gaining a second life as retro-hip artifacts replayed on TV Land1 or as nostalgic bulletins from simpler times for a more harried society (the widespread syndication of The Andy Griffith Show, for instance). ...
1. Practical Music, Personal Fantasy: Creating a Community of Song in Ally McBeal
More than any other contemporary American primetime television series, Ally McBeal experiments with the way music intersects with narrative. Ally’s music toys with the boundaries between diegetic and nondiegetic,1 interior and exterior, real and imaginary; and Ally serves as a virtual catalog of musical functions. Here I articulate the various ways this music is used, demonstrating the expanding range of lyrical devices used in contemporary television. ...
2. Getting into Ally’s Head: Special Effects, Imagination, and the Voice of Doubt
Ally McBeal uses a remarkable range of subjective techniques, some that are familiar, such as voiceover and flashback, and some that innovatively repurpose devices developed in other genres, such as special effects. The combined use of all these techniques gives Ally McBeal a distinctive construction. Unlike most shows with ensemble casts, Ally is remarkably centered on its protagonist (as the title would indicate). ...
NARRATION AND ARGUMENT
Three: Redeeming Ally: Seriality and the Character Network
A long-running serial television narrative must maintain a precarious balance. It is difficult enough for the producers of a new television series to create a set of compelling new character relations that can capture a sizable viewing audience in its opening season.1 Once these relations are established, the serial must somehow undo them, because by definition the series must move forward. ...
4. “Is It Possible to Love Somebody only Two days?”: Guest Stars and Eccentricity
The makers of a television show rely on the emotional power of viewers’ connections to a network of familiar characters, thus enacting the thematic tensions of the series in their most dramatically weighted form. Events in a serial have power because they happen to characters in whom we have invested considerable time. ...
5. Victim of Love: Ally McBeal and the Politics of Protection
Early in the first season of Ally McBeal the law firm of Cage and Fish begins to gain a high profile in sexual harassment cases, and it maintains this specialty throughout the series. This narrow focus allows former lawyer and series creator David Kelley to explore fully the potential uses and misuses of the concept of sexual harassment, staging a public debate with himself between his liberal orientation and his fears about the expanding sphere of the law. ...
Throughout this book I have pointed out the difficulty of performing the balancing act that Ally McBeal attempts—telling a continuing story using an ensemble cast so that primetime audiences find both individual episodes and the overall narrative involving. As I finish writing this book, it appears that changes in the economics of the American television industry are making this task increasingly challenging. ...
Page Count: 285
Illustrations: 6 b&w photos
Publication Year: 2007
OCLC Number: 646733970
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