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A Look Back at Calista Flockhart's Big Break: Ally McBeal

Calista Flockhart turns 50 today, but we can't stop thinking of her as Ally McBeal, wacky career woman and legendary lead character. In the show Ally McBeal, Calista Flockhart played the titular lawyer whose personal and professional life provided a constant source of comedy. In 2010, Entertainment Weekly named Ally McBeal one of the top 20 most important characters of the past 20 years alongside other icons like Buffy and Carrie.

But back in 1998, McBeal’s short skirts and emotionally erratic personality added fuel to the era’s feminist fire. The TV lawyer’s face was placed after Gloria Steinem and Susan B. Anthony on a TIME Magazine cover that asked, “Is Feminism Dead?

But in a recent story, “Why Legal Shows Have Such Fascinating Women,” NY Mag wrote, “legal shows have tended to feature female characters who push limits without being disciplined into conformity,” citing McBeal as an example. “Ally McBeal indulges the idiosyncrasies of a character who could, in any less grounded context, have been dismissed as crazy.” While she freaked out about motherhood and meeting men, Ally McBeal proved herself professionally. Plus, the show hinged on McBeal’s relationships with a cadre of other impressive professional women including Nelle Porter (played by Portia de Rossi) and Ling Woo (Lucy Liu).

The show ran for 5 seasons, ending in 2002. Flockhart has recently been on a break from acting, but this spring she'll reappear on the small screen in the second season of Full Circle, as a mob boss.

Take a trip back to the 90s with Ally McBeal's best red carpet ensembles. Spaghetti straps, anyone?