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Monday night wasteland

Tuesday, October 26, 1999

By Tony Norman

You're feeling foolish this morning. You missed the first hour of "Monday Night Raw" and the Steelers-Falcons game to watch the season premiere of "Ally McBeal."

Voyeuristic and naive patsy that you are, you were hoping all the advance hype about last night's episode being on the kinky side would turn out to be vaguely true.

Being a fair weather Steelers fan, you had a real conundrum on your hands: Go for a sure thing like wrestling amazon Chyna fisting one of her male opponents in the groin from behind -- yow, that sounds like fun! -- or catch Ally having sex with a blank-faced stranger in a car wash, an obvious homage to that infamous scene in "Caligula" that everybody talks about.

And let's face it: You were always willing to forgo the first two quarters of the Steelers-Falcons game because you know better than to expect Kordell to catch fire in your lifetime.

So you settled on "Ally McBeal" for what was supposed to be just a few minutes because, really, you're a hard-core wrestling fan and don't know how to program your VCR -- that's why you're always flipping between "Monday Night Raw" and "WCW Monday Nitro Live," so stop blaming attention deficit disorder, man.

You watched the opening scene of "Ally McBeal," mentally weighing actress Calista Flockhart. She may be little more than chicken bones and piano wire, but she has a pretty face. If an anorexic woman were the least bit erotic, you'd be tempted to fantasize her wearing a Chyna T-shirt.

You chuckled as a character not renowned for her grasp on the mechanics of commonsense had unprotected sex with someone the show's writer hadn't even bothered to endow with a personality. In just five minutes, Flockhart's Ally threw out two seasons worth of character development, a record for prime-time lasciviousness, I believe.

In your own simpleminded way, you wondered how many women you know in passing who would really be willing to have wild, unprotected sex with a stranger who likes wrestling and fantasizes about Chyna punching him in the groin on "Monday Night Raw"?

During the commercials, you re-read television critic Rob Owen's scathing preview, especially the nicknames he sprinkled throughout his column: "Ally McPorn," "Ally McDoMe," "Ally McHorny" and "Ally McBoink."

Rob called it right, but his outrage was due in part to his belief that David Kelley, the show's overextended creator/writer, crossed some kind of line. But there's little evidence that Kelley is an especially adept writer once the novelty has been wrung out of his characters. Who's going to tune into a third season of "Ally McBeal" for more of the same old neurotic story lines?

With the well-written but risqué "Sex and the City" in reruns on HBO an hour before, "Ally McBeal" had to do something dramatic or risk looking tame in comparison. "Sex," a critics' darling, picked up a lot of heat at the end of its second season. Kelley's just trying to keep up.

Unfortunately, Kelley doesn't trust the women around him enough to let them help him write something that's truer to the white female experience in America.

Fortunately, there was another hour of reality programming left on "Monday Night Raw." Wrestling may be homoerotic deep down, but at least it isn't anti-erotic.

Tony Norman's email: tnorman@post-gazette.com

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