Wednesday, November 06, 2002
I'd like to point you to Kathy Newman's excellent column about David Kelley's recent (and recently cancelled) television show, "girls club" (I don't know why, but lower-case is how you're supposed to write it). Newman sees what other critics were unable or unwilling to -- that "Kelley does not really care about the law, nor is he a 'feminist.' He doesn’t have to be. But he is still one of the only TV writers out there who is writing ABOUT sex, and not merely using legs and sexy haircuts to get ratings.... girls club should not be seen as Kelley’s latest misstep. Rather, David Kelley is finally playing with the grown-ups, and it’s a huge relief."
Newman does get one thing wrong, though, when she wrote: "[Kelly's] law shows are not really about law at all. They never were. They are about relationships -- sexual ones -- and the ways in which these relationships can be made to play out in the context of a system with rules and regulations."
I've never seen any of Kelley's shows other than Ally McBeal (of which I was a dedicated viewer), and I don't think the show was about relationships at all. Quite the opposite, it was a show about being alone. Episode after episode closed with a shot of Ally sitting at her office desk or in her apartment by herself and cut to a wide cityscape of Boston and all the buildings within which lived millions of people, none of whom Ally was with. It was a show about how a single professional woman negotiated her loneliness.
Ally jumped the shark (as it were) when David Kelley began believing the press about the show being about relationships, the characters's querkiness, and the post-feminist idelogical position the show supposedly a trail-blazer of. Subsequently, Kelley made those the show's focus. No longer was the viewer treated (and it was a genuine treat) which we saw at the close of an early episode -- a shot of Ally kissing an an imaginary unicorn -- a unicorn that she dreamed about during her childhood and currently was dreaming about (and believing in) again. No, we got that annoying John Cage singing in some Mexican barbershop quartet. The generation x fans who flocked to Ally because her loneliness was real because it resonated with their own lives ran away from these later episodes like they were at a Perry Cumo concert. The show, which was once the jewel of generation x appointment television viewing, couldn't have been cancelled quickly enough.
We were left with with the vacuousness of that unbelievable utopian Friends world where not only everybody knows our names but there's no smoke and our favorite sofa is always empty.
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