Serial Narrative and Guest Stars: <i>Ally McBeal's</i> Eccentrics

Greg Smith

in The Contemporary Television Series

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print May 2005 | ISBN: 9780748619009
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748671168 | DOI:
Serial Narrative and Guest Stars: Ally McBeal's Eccentrics

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The prime-time television serial cannot take care of all of its narrative business by staying solely within the tightly bound world of core characters. The prime-time serial needs guest stars. What narrative function do these guest actors play? Ally McBeal provides a case study in dealing with this larger question, demonstrating how such guest appearances provide conflict in ways that the core ensemble cannot. In addition, this chapter articulates how Ally balanced guest stars with recurring characters to make its political argument about eccentricity. By making its case about eccentric behaviour, instead of politically loaded differences such as race, Ally McBeal framed its argument in ways that seek to bypass resistances to questions of difference. It marshals our allegiances to long-running serial characters and balances them with the more targeted rhetoric provided by guest stars to create a complex appeal to audience attitudes.

Keywords: prime-time serial; television serial; guest stars; Ally McBeal; narrative; characters; eccentricity; difference; rhetoric

Chapter.  9099 words. 

Subjects: Television

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