S3E3: In Which We Discover that Dick Mode was Just the Beginning

S3E3
No further comment.

Previously: Billy lectured everyone that the law protects women being “less than” and Richard asked if he was angry, Billy and Renee fought about him being a misogynist dick, Nelle told Ling about her spanking fantasy, Cage overheard and tried it and she freaked.

Ally stammers about her Al Green hallucinations to… Betty White! Sure, why not. She flashes back to seeing him in court and in her room, and Betty looks on in disbelief. Ally segues into singing the “Broken Heart” song, at which point Betty turns into Al Green and joins in. Ally realizes what she’s doing, stops, and says she’s fallen in love with Al. Betty says she wants to put Ally on Prozac, but she’s not having it. Apparently Betty is her new therapist, as she tells Ally that she’s not well, and she won’t find happiness via love or God because “it comes in a pill”. Betty takes hers as a suppository! CREDITS!

A typical staff meeting is in progress at C&F. Richard gives a rundown about Kirby Gallin, a boy who’s been suspended from school for sexual assault after he kissed a girl against her will. He asks Billy to join him in the client consult, but Billy says he already has a meeting, so Richard pulls Cage in instead. As the meeting breaks up, Georgia asks Billy about his other engagement, and he jerkily replies that it’s just a potential new client. After he leaves, Elaine agrees with Georgia that he’s probably lying. Ally is left alone in the conference room, and realizes that the donut box is from “Al’s Donuts”, and has an Al Green-like mascot stamped on the front. She freaks and runs after Cage. Continue reading “S3E3: In Which We Discover that Dick Mode was Just the Beginning”

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S3E2: I’m Too Sexy for My Workplace

S3E2
Surprisingly, this is a consensual encounter

Strangely, no previouslies again this ep.

We fade into a staff meeting, where Ally is sucking on her finger and daydreaming, when she’s interrupted by Richard introducing this week’s case. Billy, whose hair is very short, which makes his head look like a stupid egg, tells us that their client is being sued for sexual harassment. Or rather, there’s a group of female defendants suing both their coworker and their company, because the coworker, Alice, is too sexy. Didn’t we cover and invalidate this kind of nonsense in season 1 with Hot Mailroom Girl? In fact, Ally asks how the judge hasn’t thrown out the case already. Billy: “We’re talking about sexual harassment law, Ally, we can’t expect it to make sense.” Nice.

Billy continues to rant that these days, if a woman is hypersensitive about something and ties it to sex, she has a case, and since according to the law, women are “less than” and need protection, they all have to respect that. At least nobody else at the table looks like they’re agreeing with him. Nelle asks if C&F has a conflict of interest representing both Alice and the company, but Billy explains that Renee will be co-counsel to represent Alice. Richard adjourns the meeting, and all the women look irritated. Continue reading “S3E2: I’m Too Sexy for My Workplace”

S3E1: Fuckin’ at the Car Wash

S3E1
Awkward Family Photos: Sexcapades Edition

No previouslies from last season, so we kick off with VONDA singing over clips that are basically a Visit Boston! ad. Ally walks along the sidewalk (in daylight, this time) with wet hair. She arrives at C&F and is greeted by Cage. She’s surprised he’s there, and nobody else is, so maybe it’s a weekend? He asks why she’s wet and she evades the question, retreating to her office. He follows to ask what’s wrong. Apparently, she was at the car wash (Ally has a car?), and made contact with a hunky guy. We flash back to her making eyes at him, and it’s unclear whether he works there or not. She felt almost haunted, like they knew each other in another life, and once her car was in getting soaped up, her door opened, the dude got in, they started reading each other’s fantasies, and promptly made out. We still see clips of all this as she recounts how he pulled her out the passenger side and they “made love”. Yes, we do get to see the soapy, wet, half-clothed fucking WHILE THE CAR WASH IS RUNNING. Ally knows she should feel ashamed, but she wants to drive back and see him again. In fact, she can even admit that it wasn’t making love, it was… “that vulgar verb” (see above), and she wants to do it again. Cage looks stunned. CREDITS! 

Back on a workday, Ling is pity-inviting Ally to a dinner party, but is interrupted by Richard, who needs Ally for “major client, his daughter, some crisis, mystery”. The client’s daughter, whose name is Risa, is waiting for Ally in her office. It turns out that Risa is supposed to get married on Saturday, in a big, 300-person wedding, but the minister, a family friend, dropped out and won’t let them use the church. Ally asks why, and Risa reluctantly fills her in: the minister came by her parents’ house when Risa was there, with someone who was not her fiance. He let himself in (seems presumptuous from a family friend) and caught them getting it on. Risa claims it was a “one-nighter bachelorette” thing, because she wanted to sow her oats before settling down. She wants to know if there’s legal recourse, but also keep it hush-hush, since if her fiance finds out, he might call off the wedding. Ally doesn’t think there’s much there, but Risa begs, and Ally offers to talk it over with the other attorneys.

Continue reading “S3E1: Fuckin’ at the Car Wash”

Season 2 Rundown

Well, this was a royal mess.

Usually I expect this kind of random and flighty behavior from a show in season 5 or 6, but 2? We had all the same problems as season 1: acknowledging “wackiness” without fixing anything, Billy’s Dick Mode and abuse disguised as average romantic plotlines, gross generalizations about men vs. women, and typical 90s sex panic. They got a little better with naming characters, but that was really the only improvement.

I’ll try to hit the high points here.

We got Nelle and Ling this season, and they’re both pretty awesome over all. However, they both ended up centering entirely around the men they’re dating, which is a serious bummer. Ling is mostly good at standing up for herself, but then Richard managed to conquer her long-standing denial of sex with Viagra, of all things, so she’s second place by the end. Nelle needs something to do that’s not will-they-won’t-they with Cage, because I was tired of that by episode 3, and they still made it last the entire season. She is, however, the only one who consistently stands up to Billy and tells him how much of a dick he is, and the show definitely needs that as a counterbalance.

Billy needs to GTFO. Immediately. I don’t agree with a single one of his plotlines this season. Sneaking around with Ally, being overly possessive of Georgia, telling his boss he has no romantic hopes for him, just all of it. Oh, also, casually dumping marriage therapy, which is desperately needed if they’re going to insist on this relationship, because they had one bad session with Rosie O’Donnell. He’s a garbage person and deserves no more thought or screen time.

Renee was still mostly a sidekick this season. She had her thing with Matt, which was super ill-advised, but otherwise was just a sounding board for Ally’s whining. She’s more stable and put together than Ally, and I stick by my theory that if she’s willing to put up with Ally this much and still loves her, they should just get married, raise a family, and start a women-only commune away from all these trash men.

Poor Georgia got shafted, she’s only here to play romantic foil to Ally for Billy anymore. I like the little things they give her to do, but she needs to dump Billy ASAP. Maybe she can live in that commune with Ally and Renee.

Elaine was mostly reminding us that I AM SEX this season, but honestly, she got more depth than Georgia did. She got a bit of pathos with the face bra episode, and we got insight into her being happy living more simply in the dance ep. Kind of. She did tell Cage that she’s always masking a sense of existential loneliness, so I guess I have to take the rest with a grain of salt.

Cage and Fish were mostly just involved with Nelle and Ling, so see above. I don’t hate Cage for his eccentricities, but I dislike him for his stubborn lack of self-awareness, which is part of the reason he and Nelle don’t really work together. Richard, on the other hand, mostly owns his shit, so I enjoy his more crass attitude and casual dismissal of legal authority whenever he’s dragged into court.

R.I.P, Butters. You’ll always hold a special place in my heart. I would love to see you on the show again, because you and Nelle are the only reasonable characters, but you deserve better than any of Ally’s mess. Go off with Kimba and have a great time, she is not even worth it. I’m sorry you altered your plans to give her another chance, and she blew you off for a newly introduced escort character that she never even pursued.

SPEAKING OF WHICH. Ally is stalled the fuck out. She made no significant progress in season 2, and actually slipped to the point of mental distress and hallucination by the end. Which, to be clear, is a fine direction for the show to go with her. I can believe that a woman would be so torn between vocational and romantic expectations that she’d crack under the pressure! But it’s so unevenly treated. Like I ranted about a few eps back, when she has someone, she doesn’t want him, and when there’s nobody, she’s whining about being single. On a more self-aware show, I’d think this was a commentary, but on this one I think they’re up their own butts. And then, instead of centering her life around what she wants and can do on her own, her solution is to date some more to make Al Green go away. I guess if hijinks are the only way the show knows how to solve a plot point, then knock yourself out. But there is some hard-core introspection and therapy needed. Tangentially, I’ve been thinking recently that Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is a show that succeeds in every way that Ally McBeal fails, but that’s a think piece for later. For now, it’s time to see if the writers can get back on track at all for season 3.

S2 BONUS!: We 90sed So Hard We Broke the Fourth Wall

S2Bonus
Hahahaha you must be joking, I… no? Please?

Previously: A montage of people telling Ally she’s crazy, Ally falling down, various Whimsy moments, all backed by VONDA singing… hold up, is this a trailer?

Oh it’s still going. More clips: Ally acting odd, footage from season 1 for some reason? More VONDA, sex and kissing clips, quick-cut credits, and the title: “The Life and Trials of Ally McBeal”.

I am really confused at this point, but all is about to be revealed. A man with dark, curly hair walks into an empty courtroom set, and speaks: “Quirky, bold, creative, politically incorrect– there’s something I know a little bit about– that best describes ‘Ally McBeal’. Hi, I’m your host, Bill Maher.” OH MY GOD NO

So, as I learned in real time, that last shot of Sad Ally on a merry-go-round was indeed the end of season 2. Now we’re onto some kind of season ender special that is structured more like a DVD extra, although I’m not sure if DVDs had really taken off yet in 1999. More importantly, yes, they actually hired Bill Maher to host this shit. It turns out this is largely content that I’ve already recapped, so it’s not worth going into any of the clips they re-edit together, but there are some… very 90s highlights.

First up is a recap of Ally and Billy’s childhood connection. Bill Maher makes a Monica Lewinsky joke, and describes how Ally started at C&F. Not only did her ex-lover work there, but his wife did too! “If it’s any consolation, the president has the same problem.” Kill me now.

Gil Bellows (Billy) describes C&F as “the most perverse set of dynamics in a workplace that have ever been created”, which may be overstating it a bit. Lots of light self-congratulating in various cast interviews about how “out of the box” the show is, since all the characters are near clinically insane. Portia de Rossi: “Politically correct– if you can’t talk about it, then somebody has to, and we do.” I feel slightly better for her career knowing that Arrested Development was only a couple of years on the horizon. Lisa Nicole Carson (Renee) has a weird moment where she says that some days she thinks women should avoid marriage, “but there are days when I definitely think that women should be in the kitchen with the apron, barefoot and pregnant, and that’s it.” Where… did that come from?

Next topic is Ally’s love life, and Calista Flockhart (Ally) describes how you question if women can have it all, and if they even want it. I’m mystified by this attitude coming from someone MARRIED TO HARRISON FORD, but then I look it up and I guess that hadn’t happened yet.

There’s a bunch of talk about how abrasive Ally’s character is, so at least the show seems to be somewhat self-aware. Calista herself declares that “this is your worst nightmare, this woman tells you everything she’s thinking”. Courtney Thorne-Smith (Georgia) admits that she doesn’t understand why people on the show hire Cage & Fish, seeing as everyone is so odd.

We get a quick run-down of each main character, and again there’s not much here we haven’t seen before. Greg German (Richard) has the lovely line, “I think Richard would come right out and say, “I love interns.” Was there nothing else to make jokes about in 1999?? Peter MacNicol (Cage) is much more charming out of character, I have to say.

An entire chunk of this special is dedicated to the Billy/Ally/Georgia triangle. They make sure to include the clip of Ally and Georgia fake making out, so that we can cut back to Bill Maher acting all hot and bothered. We move on to Ally’s broader dating life, or as he phrases it, “her search for Mr. Right [which] has taken on holy grail proportions”. I had to look this up, but Portia de Rossi was in a green card marriage and not out as a lesbian at all at this point, so when she says “it’s hard to find a good man out there” and laughs, I fall in love with her a little bit. Lucy Liu (Ling) tells us that the show is honest about issues, and if you want “sunshine in a box” you should change the channel. Nobody in the cast knows if Ally will actually end up coupled.

We wrap up with everyone being optimistic about the life and trials of Ally McBeal, since she has a lot of life force, and is so alive that she has to make the most of it. Bill Maher has one more thing to say: “Be careful what you wish for, because you might get it”, and we end with a clip of Ally saying she’s happy and not equipped for it. And, randomly, that’s the end. Man, non-internet TV was a hell of thing.

S2E23: We Need to Talk about Ally

S2E23
Tonight, on Boston Bachelorette: this dude thinks this gesture is charming, watch him crash and burn!

Previously: Nelle was impressed by Cage’s calisthenics, nobody but Ally thought The One was real, Cage thought Ally’s Whimsy was because she preferred a fantasy world, Cage talked to Kelly about Ally’s crazy, Nelle sniped at Renee for pulling Cage to her bosom, Richard was a dick to Camaro, Cage and Ally brought Camaro back, Cage talked some more to Ally (weird way to cut the clips) and Ally said she loves reality but is just crazy.

Al Green’s “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart” plays as Ally gets ready for bed. She rolls over in bed and sees Al Green singing to her, and she stares, looking shaken, then starts crying. She walks over to him as Ikettes sing backup from her bed, and they start dancing together. Cut to Renee looking into Ally’s room, where her roommate is dancing by herself and singing, in tears. Ally tells Renee to get out but continues singing. This is bad, you guys. Also, the “90s hijinx credits” are a serious juxtaposition to cut to the last few episodes.

The next morning, Ally and Renee are reading the newspaper. Renee studies Ally until she notices, and says she’s worried about her, being haunted by Al Green and all. Ally says she knows he isn’t real, since she’d never be lucky enough to be with someone who could “sing [her] life” and her heart, which is broken. She clarifies that it’s not one guy in particular that broke her heart, it’s just “one gigantic stress fracture”. She tells Renee to call Elaine and tell her she won’t be at work for the next few days, “because I’m staying in my room where life is beautiful”. Renee sighs, which is still an underreaction. Continue reading “S2E23: We Need to Talk about Ally”

S2E22: In Which We Get to the Crux of this Marriage Thing

S2E22
Pictured: A woman firmly in control of her work-life boundaries

Previously: nothing!

Ally wakes to her alarm and flashes back to herself waking up as a little girl. Renee telling her she’ll be late for court brings her back to the present. She brushes her teeth, then hears rock music and girls giggling, and when she heads back to her room, she “sees” four teenage girls singing “Addicted to Love” into hairbrushes. The vision fades, and she squats down and holds her head.

… CREDITS!

We skip right to court, where a bald, middle-aged man is describing how he had a wonderful marriage, until he found his wife’s diary on her computer. It was in the form of a series of love letters going back eleven years, and they’d only been married for two. (It takes a second to become clear, but C&F is representing his wife.) Cage tries to object to Judge Shortskirt, and we find out that this isn’t a divorce proceeding, but a criminal trial for fraud. The judge tells Cage to sit down, and he complies. OC continues her questioning: Husband (Barry) claims that his wife (Kelly) married him for his money and wasn’t actually attracted to him. She laid those facts out in the love letters he found, and admitted it when confronted. He declares that “she was thirty, wanting to get married, and I was good husband material”, and their vows were a lie. Kelly looks uncomfortable. You know, in these modern times, I assumed to a certain extent that the MARRIAGE BY THIRTY decree from the 80s/90s was somewhat exaggerated, but this show goes whole hog focusing on it, and often. No wonder there was so much single-woman panic. Continue reading “S2E22: In Which We Get to the Crux of this Marriage Thing”

S2E21: Jealousy, Turning Lawyers to Pageantry

S2E21
And the award for Most Honest Reaction goes to… Butters!

 

Previously: Tracey mocked Ally for not having slept with Butters, Cage said he could fall for Nelle, Cage had A Change and asked out Renee, Billy and Georgia didn’t think they needed therapy, Ally was worried she was so into Butters that she kissed Billy, Butters thought Ally was so NOT into him that she kissed Billy so he dumped her, Nelle had Cage over for dinner and they did a sex.

Cage and Nelle run into each other at C&F and make small talk about toothpaste and mouthwash so that Nelle has an excuse to kiss Cage in the middle of the office. Nearby, Ling feels much the same as I do about their blossoming relationship, so Nelle diverts her by going to get coffee. Cage contentedly declares himself a Love Machine and realizes that Ally overheard, so he smiles awkwardly until we go to CREDITS.

We kick things off with a female client who is adamantly refusing to settle. Richard touches her wattle and she slaps him away. She asks if he’s experienced infidelity, and he admits that he has, just not as the victim. Cage suggests again that they settle, since their counterclaim could get thrown out, but she still refuses, as she wants to make this as difficult as possible. She storms out and they follow.

Ally is singing to the radio (again in the form of a giant boombox) in her office, a song including the lyrics “I’m not really over you”, and Ling comes in to glare at her. Elaine joins her in the doorway as Ling asks why Ally is playing breakup songs, and Ally says that she just likes Boz Scaggs. Elaine and Ling exchange glances. Continue reading “S2E21: Jealousy, Turning Lawyers to Pageantry”

S2E20: Life’s a Beach (Day)

S2E20
The Whitest Guys U’ Know

Previously: Elaine invented a bunch of stuff, Cage re-asked out Nelle, Richard had a knee-pit sex trick, which Cage used on Renee to great effect.

At C&F, The Gang is watching a commercial featuring Elaine’s face bra. Everyone in it is wearing one and looks like a serial killer, including Holland Taylor, for some reason. Elaine looks very content and assures everyone that she’ll never leave the firm, even if she gets rich off this. CREDITS!

We go right into a staff meeting, where everyone is discussing a “bathing suit case”. Billy is lead counsel with Ling as second. Ally is pissed that a) they keep taking sexual harassment cases and b) they always represent the harassers. Billy argues that it’s not sexual harassment, and mentions that their client is a boss who makes his employees wear bathing suits. This should be good. He goes on to engage Dick Mode, saying that women make themselves out to be the weaker sex, and FURTHERMORE, men don’t get boob jobs, try on a million outfits, or care about their butts or “flat tummies”. He seems to think he has a checkmate on this. Nelle asks Ling why she’s okay with this, and Ling replies that she brought in the client, so this will help her make partner and give her the power to end everyone else’s chauvinism. Elaine enters, wearing a face bra, and announces that they got 800 orders overnight, and they want to interview her for a cable show.

Richard tries to leave the meeting, but Cage pulls him aside. As Barry White starts playing, Cage asks if Richard can sense The Change in him, as he’s become bolder since he turned 35. He’s been hearing a voice that tells him he should “go to” Nelle, but it seems she hasn’t noticed. Cage is wondering whether he should try the knee pit trick on Nelle. I say NOPE, but Richard disagrees, asserting that if he does, then Nelle would certainly notice The Change.

Continue reading “S2E20: Life’s a Beach (Day)”

S2E19: Two’s Therapy, Three’s a Crowd

S2E19
Just because you know how awful you are doesn’t make it better

Previously: Cage felt behind in life for 35, Ling warned Richard that she’s amazing in bed, Billy told Georgia that he kissed Ally, Richard aroused Ling with his knee pit trick, Cage kissed Ally and refused to apologize for it.

Cage is primping in the Unisex mirror, backed, as usual, by Barry White. He walks through the bullpen, acting all smooth with everyone, and into Nelle’s office. He asks her how she got Barry White to sing for his birthday, as it was the high point of his life. She admits that she got some help from Ling, but he may not want to share the high point thing with other people. He announces that he’s reconsidered about not being able to fall for her, but she demurs, explaining that she wouldn’t want to snag a man using Barry White. Cage asks if they can go on a date, but she says that she has a big case to work on, and no time for romance. Cage muses that she doesn’t seem to have noticed that he’s changed.

At the post-credits staff meeting, Ally is telling Richard that she’s offended by a case, and doesn’t want to participate as “window dressing”, plus she’s disappointed in Nelle for taking it. Nelle replies, “There goes my self-esteem, I so live for your approval.” ❤ ❤ ❤ Apparently they’re defending another law firm that discriminates against women. Richard gives us a preview of their strategy, saying that between periods, PMS, and makeup, women associates aren’t a great bet. He cites that the single ones want to meet men, and realizes they should use Ally as an exhibit. Ally tries to pawn it off on Georgia, so Cage volunteers, seeing as he’s good at bizarre arguments. Richard has begun doing the knee pit thing to Ling under the table while they discuss the defense, which breaks down to “women are inferior, made that way by God”. Fun! Ling moans, and everyone tries to ignore it as the meeting breaks up. Continue reading “S2E19: Two’s Therapy, Three’s a Crowd”