[Contains real unicorns and SPOILERS!!!]
The second season of Ally McBeal (1998) introduced two new lady lawyers: ‘Nelle Porter’, played by Portia de Rossi, who was nicknamed “Sub-Zero” but actually turned out to be quite sweet and smiley… and ‘Ling Woo’, played by Lucy Liu, who started off as a case-of-the-week client, and eventually stole the show as a super-confident jill-of-all-trades. Fun fact: Originally Liu auditioned for the role of Nelle, and got knocked back, but showrunner David E. Kelley was so impressed with her that he created the character of Ling as a consolation prize! Less fun fact: According to Wikipedia, Ling was the most famous and significant Asian character on American TV screens at the time, so she came under a lot of scrutiny, and was subsequently identified as an offensive racial stereotype… though I wasn’t really aware of those sorts of issues when I first watched the show, and just thought she was straight-up awesome. As an adult, it’s impossible to watch Ally McBeal without all sorts of reservations, as far as body issues, gender, and racial representation go… nonetheless, it did give Liu a pretty diverse showcase for her talents, and launch her to international stardom, so that’s something to be grateful for… right?
As for the guest-stars: Lydia Look appeared in ep #2.3 (“Fool’s Night Out”) as ‘Leigh Woo’, Ling’s surgically-enhanced sister, who is drawn into a lawsuit against a nurse with natural breasts. This episode also saw the first proper appearance of Jennifer Holliday as ‘Lisa Knowles’, after debuting as a featured choir singer in ep #1.10. Jessica Harper appeared in ep #2.6 (“World’s Without Love”) as ‘Sister Helen’, a disapproving superior being sued for sacking a young nun (‘Chrissa’, played by Kellie Waymire) after she had an affair with a man who wasn’t God. Despite the musical nature of the show, Harper wasn’t called upon to sing a single note here, which is a damn shame considering what a gorgeous voice she has, and how few recordings there are of her! Lara Flynn Boyle made a totally inexplicable cameo in ep #2.10 (“Making Spirits Bright”), playing her character from The Practice… who just randomly insults Ally (Calista Flockhart) as they pass in a courthouse corridor, then gets into a lift and goes away! Whu? She only had a fleeting walk-by role in the previous crossover episode (#1.20), and I didn’t see the second part of that story, so I’ve no idea why she was still so mad at Ally. Bygones.
Lauren Bowles appeared in ep #2.14 (“Pyramids On The Nile”) as ‘Callie Horne’, the female half of a couple fired by a company after failing to reveal their relationship, and sign a “love contract” to exempt their employers from liability. Tracey Ullman won an Emmy for her “Outstanding Guest” appearance as ‘Dr. Tracey’ in ep #2.15 (“Sideshow”), refereeing an epic therapy session between Ally and Billy after they shared an adulterous kiss (or two), and serenading them with a karaoke cover of “Tainted Love”! Maria Pitillo appeared in ep #2.17 (“Civil Wars”) as ‘Paula Hunt’, the plaintiff in an atypical “date rape” case (the man used an internet chatroom to learn all her interests and opinions, then parroted them back to her as if they were his own). Wendy Worthington appeared in ep #2.19 (“Let’s Dance”), as ‘Margaret Camaro’, a scowling sociologist who returned in a further two episodes this season, as both an expert witness for our heroine’s law firm, and as a client! Rosie O’Donnell also had a cameo as Billy and Georgia’s therapist, ‘Dr. Hooper’, who insulted Ally and got her big-toe broken in retaliation. I’d say Hooper totally deserved it, but that’s only because she spent most of the first session blowing bubble-gum, which seems very unprofessional (and really grosses me out).
Debra Christofferson appeared in ep #2.20 (“Only The Lonely”) as ‘Vicky Sharpe’, a self-conscious woman suing her boss for instituting a monthly bikini-clad “beach day” at their office. Meanwhile, Jane Krakowski finally got a sub-plot of her own, when the infomercial for Elaine’s infamous face-bra finally aired (featuring an uncredited and unrecognisable cameo by Holland Taylor), and her relatives came a-calling to accuse Elaine of stealing the idea from a deceased cousin. Scandal! Christine Estabrook appeared in ep #2.21 (“The Green Monster”) as ‘Bonnie Mannix’, the vengeful ex-wife of a flagrant adulterer, who dropped an antique piano onto his vintage Porsche after the affair went public. Enya Flack also had an eye-and-ear-catching cameo as the new girlfriend (and impromptu singing partner) of Ally’s recurring ex, ‘Greg’ (played by Jesse L. Martin). Finally, Anne-Marie Johnson appeared in ep #2.22 (“Love’s Illusions”) as the District Attorney prosecuting an alleged gold-digger named ‘Kelly Philbrick’ (Barbara Alyn Woods), whose wealthy husband wanted to see her charged with fraud after discovering that she never really loved him, and had been regularly writing secret e-mails to her imaginary Mr. Right. This episode also featured a largely silent cameo by Sarah Hagan as one of Ally’s childhood friends in a flashback (“Girlfriend #3” to be exact).