The mid to late 1990s was an interesting time to be a television fan. David E. Kelley was the hot hand in Hollywood. Along with writing and producing “L.A. Law,” he created and wrote “Picket Fences,” “The Practice,” “Chicago Hope,” “Boston Legal,” “Boston Public,” and “Ally McBeal.” While “The Practice” was the longest-running of these (and arguably the most successful considering it spun-off “Boston Legal“), none of the shows were as much of a cultural phenomenon as “Ally McBeal.” After being rumored for some time, the show is coming back in the form of a sequel at ABC thanks to writer Karin Gist.
Gist is said to be writing the sequel from the perspective of a young black woman. This woman in particular is said to be the daughter of Renée Raddick, the character played by Lisa Nicole Carson in the original series. The relationship between Raddick and the titular McBeal was an interesting dynamic in that her work as a district attorney would often pit her directly against her friend and roommate. If you know David E. Kelley programs, you know this isn’t the first nor last time he would use such a trope. While Calista Flockhart remains the stand-out cast member in terms of notoriety, that doesn’t do justice to the ensemble cast which included Carson, Peter MacNicol, Portia de Rossi, and more. [Editor’s note: I think Heath meant Jane Krakowski as the stand out performer, but whatever.]
Gist herself is known for working as a screenwriter and producer for several shows, including “Star,” “Revenge,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” and creating the short-lived series “Our Kind of People.”
According current reports, David E. Kelley has given his blessing for Gist to move forward with the series, and give it her own creative spin. What will be interesting is how different this series will be given the lack of Kelley’s involvement. Kelley himself is a unique creator in that he is often very hands on with writing for a show. As an example, he either wrote or co-wrote all but one of the 112 “Ally McBeal‘” episodes. That is a virtually unheard of figure.
Given that the show is taking place from the view of a young black woman, it’s probably a wise decision for Kelley to step aside in that regard. Gist’s new character is said to be joining the same law firm McBeal herself started with. Flockhart has been rumored to have been approached to return to the role, something that would be noteworthy. She was of course part of The CW’s “Supergirl,” but her list of credits leading up to the series and following it are sparse.
Law dramas frequently make for entertaining television and Kelley made a name out of himself for being able to establish the courtroom dramedy almost single-handedly. Seeing this brought back with a new voice, a new perspective but in a familiar setting has a world of potential. We look forward to seeing what Gist can bring to this property and eagerly await more information as it becomes available. Now if she can also get Robert Downey Jr. to reappear as well, maybe we could finally get some closure on that character arc.