Veronica's Closet

Article excerpt

RESUME FOR A TV CHARACTER female viewers can identify with: beautiful, smart, successful ... emotional train wreck. For many women, that relatable mix of professional success and personal mess has made two of this season's breakout shows--"Ally McBeal" and "Veronica's Closet"--must-she TV.

You may have already met Fox's leggy new role model. Ally McBeal (Calista Flockhart) is a Harvard law grad, confident in the courtroom, with a penchant for short skirts. She also has an active inner life. Very active. Her vivid daydreams sam the central gimmick of the show. (A device shamelessly lifted by "Ally" creator David E. Kelley from HBO's "Dream On.") An ex-boyfriend works at her new law firm. He suggests coffee. Cut to her fantasy of the two of them frolicking together in a cappuccino hot tub. When she finds out he's married, cut to her being pierced in the heart by arrows. Her interior monologues reveal just how heavy Ally's caseload of neuroses really is. "I just had to follow him to law school. I didn't even want to be a lawyer." Is this a television show or a therapy session?

"Ally McBeal" is drama with comedy. NBC's "Veronica's Closet" is comedy about drama--a drama queen. Hysterical in both senses of the word, Veronica (Kirstie Alley) is an ex-model who owns a lingerie catalog and was, until now, its sexy cover girl Veronica's secret is that because she's now too, uh, old and fat to model the stuff in her own catalog. her head has to be computer-grafted onto the bodies of lithe 22-year-olds. She's also in mid-divorce from a Lothario angling for a big chunk of her fortune. Him squeezing her for cash is a feminist-friendly role reversal, compensation for the retrograde body-image and aging issues that plague Veronica. The age-discrimination button has been pushed on "Ally," too, with her representing a TV anchor played, with genius casting. by Kate Jackson. Even young Xers watching must have felt the chill of that cold reality: If one of Charlie's Angels is already considered over the hill how long before I am?

Alley and Ally aren't the only conflicted chicks getting air time. …