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Fox Series 'Ally McBeal' to Go Off the Air in May

Television: The show brought the network critical raves, but its ratings had dropped off from peak years.


"Ally McBeal," which helped steer the Fox network brand away from its tabloid image and gave it some of the critical cachet shared by the more established broadcast television networks, will end its five-year run in May, the network announced late Wednesday.

The move means that News Corp.'s television operation will see the departure this spring of two of the biggest hit series in Fox's evolution, as "The X-Files" takes its final bow in May after nine years on the air.

At one time, "Ally McBeal" and "The X-Files" gave Fox a powerful one-two punch as it emerged from the shadows of bigger players NBC, ABC and CBS.

A source said the network and series creator David E. Kelley came to a mutual agreement about ending "Ally McBeal." Neither Kelley nor Fox officials could be reached for comment.

A statement released by Fox quoted Kelley as saying, "It's sad to say goodbye to something you love, even when perhaps it's time."

Ratings for "Ally McBeal" have dropped off considerably from peak years. The series also had been under-performing in reruns on News Corp.'s FX cable network.

Produced by Twentieth Century Fox Television, "Ally McBeal" not only made series star Calista Flockhart a media sensation, the show also brought Fox critical raves, moving the network's image away from such fare as "Beverly Hills, 90210."

"Ally McBeal," nominated multiple times for Emmy Awards, was honored as the best comedy in 1999.

Viewers, meanwhile, were attracted to the series' mix of comedic, musical and dramatic elements, as Kelley used his quirkier side to depict the goings-on at a Boston law firm.

Flockhart, in the process, went from working actress to media star, becoming an icon as both an urban professional and single woman looking for love.

Such was the show's--and Flockhart's--popularity that Kelley and Fox repackaged the series as a half-hour comedy during the 1999-2000 season, though "Ally," as it was called, flopped.

"Ally McBeal," meanwhile, appeared to find fresh legs when the show added Robert Downey Jr., in something of a casting coup, as a recurring character during the 2000-2001 season. It was Downey's first role after being released from Corcoran State Prison, where he had served time for violating probation terms set after previous drug arrests.

His pairing with Flockhart immediately sparked renewed interest in the show and garnered headlines. Two subsequent drug arrests for Downey, however, led Kelley to write him off the show at the end of last season.

Fox said the "Ally McBeal" series finale will air May 20. Kelley's relationship with the studio, meanwhile, continues.

In addition to two existing series, ABC's "The Practice" and Fox's "Boston Public," he has written a pilot for Fox called "Girls Club." It concerns three young female attorneys who live in a loft in San Francisco.

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