INTERNATIONAL: MEDIUM OF THE MONTH - Ally McBeal is winning awards and viewers with FX-enhanced comedy. Jade Garrett tunes in

The winner of the comedy for television category in America’s high-profile Golden Globe awards this year was not Seinfeld or Frasier or even Third Rock from the Sun. Instead, it was a pioneering mix of seriousness and laughs called Ally McBeal. Ally, a thirtysomething female lawyer, has stormed up the ratings in the US since her debut last September, and is due to hit the small screen this side of the Atlantic on Channel 4 this spring.

The winner of the comedy for television category in America’s

high-profile Golden Globe awards this year was not Seinfeld or Frasier

or even Third Rock from the Sun. Instead, it was a pioneering mix of

seriousness and laughs called Ally McBeal. Ally, a thirtysomething

female lawyer, has stormed up the ratings in the US since her debut last

September, and is due to hit the small screen this side of the Atlantic

on Channel 4 this spring.



The show is a kind of Friends meets LA Law. Essentially a snapshot of

the life of the main character, Calista Flockhart, it tackles just about

every female issue, from whether you ought to let a man ’smell you’ on a

first date to bad hair days, not to mention sexism, ageism, racism - the

list goes on. What sets it apart from other women-led US comedies is the

innovative use of post-production special effects to reveal the inner

woman and all her hopes and fears.



Ally doesn’t just blush, for example, her face literally sizzles, and

steam spurts violently out from her ears. If she wishes for something to

happen (her breasts getting bigger, for instance), it sometimes does and

she also makes frequent use of asides and voiceovers to express her

insecurities and worries.



It’s a technique that has helped propel Ally up the ratings and has

proved useful for its network, Fox, in cracking the sought-after 9pm

prime-time slot on Monday evenings. The programme is consistently most

popular with a female audience in the 18-34 age range, a fact that is

reflected in the kind of advertising it attracts. Commercial breaks in

the September-November period were dominated by products targeted at

women, particularly pharmaceutical goods, followed by household products

and cosmetics, with most of the big names present, including

Warner-Lambert, Johnson & Johnson, L’Oreal and Unilever.



But in a recent ratings week (commencing 26 January), Ally McBeal was

second only to the American Music Awards (ABC) among adults in the 18-49

age bracket, and the show actually took the number one spot with men in

the 18-34 age range for the same period. This also shows in the

commercial breaks, with Levi’s in the line-up, advertising its jeans for

men, as well Gap promoting its men’s clothing ranges.



Ally McBeal’s creator/writer/producer is David E. Kelley, who previously

made his name with the US dramas, Chicago Hope and the Practice.



ALLY MCBEAL



Owned by Twentieth Century Fox



Production Co David E. Kelley Productions



US launch date 8 September 1997



Viewing figures (2.2.98) 9,991,000.00*



Cost of 30-second spot USdollars 65-70,000**



*Source: David E. Kelley Productions. * *ad industry est.



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