Television Review: Ally McBeal

"DO YOU ever worry about being sexually adequate," one man asks another in the executive washroom. "No," the other replies, "I know I'm good". "How?" the first one says plaintively. "Cos I'm always satisfied," says the other blithely. "It's good for me." And then, in a perfect grace note to this vignette of male egotism, he lobs his paper towel into the bin and whispers an exultant "Yesss!" The man in question is Ally McBeal's (C4) cheerfully amoral boss, something of a hero of mine as the only character in the series who never wastes his time (or ours) interrogating his motives - he doesn't really need to as they are green all over and carry pictures of American presidents.

The anxious inquiry, incidentally, had been provoked by office gossip about the endowments of a male model at the sculpting class Ally attends - "I think I'm going to need some more clay," she says in stunned tones, once she has recovered the power of speech. It formed part of an engaging episode which used a boxing match and a case of criminal assault to meditate on the frayed state of American manhood - trying to kick the testosterone habit but sneaking off for a quick hit now and then (literally in the case of the young man up in court after punching his girlfriend's ex). Actually, "meditate" is altogether too generous - these things were in it and if you chose to work them up into some kind of thesis, then no one would get in your way. In its loose insinuation, the episode had the feel of one of those education packs which offers material for class discussion, and which pretends at openness but subtly steers the pupil to a desired conclusion. If I understood the broad flow correctly, size does matter and passing out summa cum laude from Yale will never quite match the thrill of knocking down the big bully in the bar-room. Oh, and women might moan about the atavistic blood-lust with which men watch boxing matches, but secretly it turns them on.

This was also the episode which featured the dancing baby, a pixellated hallucination which has since launched a successful solo career as a computer screensaver. The baby was truly creepy - a succubus in a nappy who announces its arrival with a kind of tribal chant and who scutters around beneath Ally's bed at night in a way which would make any genuine New Yorker phone immediately for an exterminator. As visual effects go, it had a certain loathesome charm, but it couldn't match the real achievement of this episode, which was to come up with a new cinematic metaphor for male sexual climax. We've had bursting fireworks, vaulting champagne spume and crashing waves and now we can add to the repertoire the rope of spittle which flies from a boxer's mouth when his gumshield is knocked out. Filmed in slow-motion parody of the fight sequences from Raging Bull, this scene was intercut with Ally enjoying a piece of male flesh, more precisely the piece that had caused all the gossip earlier - and it made me laugh out loud with its pertinent audacity. I can see now how some people have become hooked.

A lot of people are hooked on Looking Good (BBC2), too - enough anyway to make it one of BBC2's recent successes. I can't believe a lot of men are watching, because this fashion and make-up magazine is positive horse- tranquillizer for anyone with a Y-chromosome. I was groggy after five minutes but I would have thought it to be a bit dull even for double-Xers - since last night's episode consisted of some very familiar features: how to accessorise with jewellery, why fashion editors dress like Mediterranean widows, and how to attack cellulite by massaging it with large amounts of fresh cash. I would have thought, too, that the BBC - uncorrupted by the vast advertising clout of cosmetic and fashion companies - might have produced something a little more astringent. But then astringency isn't an appealing quality in a bubble bath - and I guess that's what this is supposed to be.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Feeling all at sea: Barbara's 18-year-old son came under the influence of a Canadian libertarian preacher – and she had to fight to win him back
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Living the high life: Anne Robinson enjoys some skip-surfed soup
TV review
Arts and Entertainment

Great British Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
Doctor Who and Missy in the Doctor Who series 8 finale

TV
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Chvrches lead singer Lauren Mayberry in the band's new video 'Leave a Trace'

music
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Home on the raunch: George Bisset (Aneurin Barnard), Lady Seymour Worsley (Natalie Dormer) and Richard Worsley (Shaun Evans)

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton

film
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell and Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
New book 'The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep' by Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin

books
Arts and Entertainment
Calvi is not afraid of exploring the deep stuff: loneliness, anxiety, identity, reinvention
music
Arts and Entertainment
Edinburgh solo performers Neil James and Jessica Sherr
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
If a deal to buy tBeats, founded by hip-hop star Dr Dre (pictured) and music producer Jimmy Iovine went through, it would be Apple’s biggest ever acquisition

album review
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith is joining The Voice as a new coach

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Dowton Abbey has been pulling in 'telly tourists', who are visiting Highclere House in Berkshire

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Patriot games: Vic Reeves featured in ‘Very British Problems’
TV review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

    Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

    Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones