“I’ve been down this road / Walking the line, displaying my pride / And I have made mistakes in my life / That I just can’t hide…I believe I am ready for what love has to bring…I’ve been searching my soul tonight / I know there’s so much more to life / Now I know I can shine the light / To find my way back home” –Vonda Shephard “Searching My Soul”

From the first time you hear the familiar piano strains and Vonda Sherhard’s vocals, you immediately recall Ally McBeal like an old friend remembered fondly. It was one of those water cooler shows, or in my case, one of those shows I dissected either later that night or the next day with my female friends. After all, it was about the trials and tribulations of a modern single person trying to find happiness and contentment in her professional and personal life, sort of a Mary Tyler Moore Show for the nineties.

What made the show unique wasn’t only its lead being a single girl in her late 20s trying to find empowerment wherever she can, but how her inner thought life helped her muddle through her day and various life situations. Her secret life of Walter Mitty-esque escapades were filled with dancing babies, swelling heads, tongues sailing across the room to lick the face of a man she finds attractive.

David E. Kelly had a formula he’d been perfecting over the course of his long, often critically acclaimed career. From L.A. Law, Chicago Hope, Picket Fences, The Practice, Boston Public,to Boston Legal, he created sympathetic (if often … eccentric) characters and plopped them into either questionable/hot button issue moral dilemmas or ludicrous plot twists.

“Here I am, the victim of my own choices.” –Ally

Obviously, there are various issues surrounding the reality of singleness, from loneliness to unrequited love, and Ally McBeal wrestled with all of them. The main thrust of the show was about finding contentedness in her situation. It is about discovering herself, finding her own independence and self-reliance rather than (continuing to) make life choices based on a boy or defining herself through the ideas of what men want. It’s important to be content in your circumstances (Philippians 4:11), but some people define content—in terms of singleness—as relinquishing their desire to marry (read: given up). It’s not an either/or: you can both be content with your singleness and desire marriage. The danger of being discontent is that frustration and impatience can lead to forcing things and settling.

The thing about Ally McBeal is that there’s a reason we remember it fondly. The first season was great, after that, the series suffered from a roller coaster of quality. When it was good, it was very good; but when it was bad, it careened completely off the tracks. The second season was hit and miss at the best of times, with the show often becoming a caricature of itself. This is the danger of shows built on such well defined eccentric characters. If they stick around too long, they become one note jokes. Which only led to more ridiculous situations from Ally falling into a toilet and having to have firemen come to rescue her; or propelling herself down a bowling alley after throwing a ball that was stuck to her fingers. [Though the second best season of the show came in season four as the show found its center again with the casting of Robert Downey Jr as her love interest].

Ally McBeal redefined a lot of things (besides fashion, as short skirts were described as being “Ally McBeal short”). It fit neither the mold of the hour-long drama nor of the half-hour sitcom, thus paving the way for shows like Desperate Housewives and Ugly Betty. And it never hurts to visit with old friends.