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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - "Ally McBeal" -- the quirky TV comedy whose mini-skirted neurotic star, nose-whistling lawyers and unisex bathrooms found a worldwide audience -- finally arrives in stores next week as a complete DVD series with all its original music intact.
Seven years after the Emmy-winning series starring Calista Flockhart ended after five seasons, problems with music rights have been resolved to allow the first 32-disc DVD collection to go on sale (October 6) for the first time in the United States.
With its fantasy sequences, frank approach to sex and a central character who was independent and looking for love, "Ally McBeal" was as controversial as it was ground-breaking.
But the show's creator David E. Kelley said that transforming TV for women was the last thing on his mind when he sat down to create 20-something lawyer Ally, her assistant and 'face-bra' inventor Elaine (Jane Krakowski) and ice-queen Nelle Porter (Portia de Rossi).
"I really did not think I was writing a character that was representative of womankind at all. I thought Ally was really an idiosyncratic, eccentric character. So it was bit of a surprise to find the character was so relatable to so many women," Kelley told Reuters.
Ally, a career-minded and lascivious young woman who was also searching for a soul-mate, touched off a heated debate among feminists that reached its height with a 1998 cover story in Time magazine asking "Is Feminism Dead?".
The show was a success in more than 70 countries around the world, including such diverse nations as Thailand and Lithuania.
But Kelley said that back in 1997, he initially doubted the series would even get on the air.
"It was such a different animal and I didn't know whether the studio and the network would even get it, much less the public," he said.
"I have got to credit Calista a lot for its iconic reputation. As an actress, she just resonated with the public in a way that a writer can't predict."
Kelley, who wrote all but three episodes himself, said he felt closest to the characters of Ally and John Cage, the frog-loving lawyer played by Peter MacNicol who channeled singer Barry White for inspiration.
"There was the most of me, my feelings, values and beliefs in John Cage and Ally. And I would see a lot of my twisted sense of humor in Richard Fish," he said.
"Ally McBeal" ended in 2002 with Ally adopting a child as a single mom and quitting her high-powered job as a lawyer.
Although Kelley went on to create other TV hits including the high-school series "Boston Public" and courtroom drama "Boston Legal", he was more saddened than usual when it ended.
"I knew I wouldn't really be able to do the things I did on that show again without it seeming derivative...When 'Ally' ended, I knew I was going to miss a loved one that I was never going to be able to spend time with again."
Edited by Bob Tourtellotte