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.

Arts and Entertainment

Theatre

Arts and Entertainment
V&A museum in London

Art Piece taken off website amid 'severe security alert'

Arts and Entertainment
Over their 20 years, the band has built a community of dedicated followers the world over
music
Arts and Entertainment
The Wu-Tang Clan will sell only one copy of their album Once Upon A Time In Shaolin
musicWu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own only copies of their latest albums
Arts and Entertainment
Bradley Cooper, Alessandro Nivola and Patricia Clarkson on stage

film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third
books

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game are both nominated at the Bafta Film Awards
Arts and Entertainment

Academy criticised after no non-white actors nominated

Arts and Entertainment
Damian Lewis shooting a scene as Henry VIII in Wolf Hall
TV

Arts and Entertainment
A history of violence: ‘Angry, White and Proud’ looked at the rise of far-right groups

tv

An expose of hooliganism masquerading as an ideological battle

Arts and Entertainment

art

Lee Hadwin can't draw when he's awake, but by night he's an artist

Arts and Entertainment

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Keaton in the 1998 Beetlejuice original

film

Arts and Entertainment

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Kitchen plays Christopher Foyle in ITV's 'Foyle's War'

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Downton Abbey star Joanne Froggatt will be starring in Dominic Savage's new BBC drama The Secrets

Arts and Entertainment
Vividly drawn: Timothy Spall in Mike Leigh’s ‘Mr Turner’
film
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
News
art

‘Remember the attackers are a cold-blooded, crazy minority’, says Blek le Rat

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

    Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

    One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
    The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

    The enemy within

    People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
    Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

    Autumn/winter menswear 2015

    The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    Army general planning to come out
    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
    Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

    The geeks who rocked the world

    A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
    Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

    Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

    Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
    Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

    Growing mussels

    Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project