Nothing like a little girl-on-girl action to lure viewers to a TV series. Take Monday's "Ally McBeal," for instance, which nailed its largest audience ever--17 million viewers--with an episode featuring prolonged kissing and a bonus standing lap dance sequence between Size O Girl and her office nemesis, Ling.
That's the entire population of Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming combined.
On the episode, Ling (Lucy Liu) tells Ally (Calista Flockhart) she had an erotic dream about her, which leaves Ally wondering what it would be like to kiss a girl and upset that the idea of doing it with Ling doesn't "gross me out." So the two go out on a date, where they do a joined-at-the-hips dance--but only to discourage guys at the bar who have the nerve to look at them--and discover they enjoyed themselves so much that they end up making out the next morning in the office.
And guess who flocked to Monday's episode?
So far this season--meaning this week's episode and last week's third-season debut, which featured Wet T-Shirt Ally having sex with a total stranger in a carwash during the rinse cycle--"Ally McBeal" is attracting 40 percent more males between the ages of 18 and 49 than it did at the same point last season.
No small feat during "Monday Night Football" season.
And, whether they'll 'fess up or not, women also liked watching the girl-on-girl stuff--it was Monday's most watched show among females.
In fact, the series was the most watched show in the Monday 9 p.m. hour among all young adults for the second consecutive week--beating even football.
If it hadn't been for Jennifer Love Hewitt's new "Time of Your Life" at 8 p.m., scoring less than half of Ally's audience, Fox would've had a fantastic night.
This week's "Ally McBeal" episode isn't the first time that girl-on-girl action has boosted ratings.
Back in 1994, "Roseanne" got a big wet one from Mariel Hemingway during a visit to a gay bar and viewership shot up to 32 million people, compared with "only" 23 million the previous week. Then there was Neve Campbell's experimentation with a lesbian relationship on Fox's "Party of Five," which conveniently took place during a sweeps month.
All you first-time male "Ally McBeal" viewers who thought you were seeing her first girl kiss, sorry. She's kissed two other women on the show, in separate episodes. But both times it was only done to put off guys, so it doesn't really count. Ally spends a lot of time shaking off men.
And Monday's episode also featured a beautiful blonde being spanked with her hairbrush in bed, which those other two episodes didn't offer, so you weren't cheated.
It does leave you wondering, though, how writer-producer David E. Kelley is going to top this week's episode. Next Monday, Ally starts hallucinating, and her fill-in shrink Dr. Shirley Flott (Betty White) wants to put her on Prozac.
Wasn't this series supposed to be about a law firm?
A National Enquirer ad that ran on CBS's new Bryant Gumbel vehicle, "The Early Show," won't appear again this week, CBS says. Not because it was an ad for the tabloid paper, but because the ad promoted one of its headlines, which reads "The Real Reason Why Katie & Bryant Hate Each Other," referring to Gumbel's former "Today" co-host, Katie Couric.
The ad, which was seen by New York viewers of CBS's new morning program and noted by the New York Post's Page 6, was a local spot, placed by the network-owned station in that market.
But a network spokesman says it won't appear again on the show, because it's CBS's policy not to allow ads in shows that have to do with the show itself or one of its principals. That's why ads for "The Insider," the new Al Pacino flick about a killed "60 Minutes" interview with a tobacco industry whistle-blower, have not run on "60 Minutes" or "60 Minutes II," though they have run on CBS.
More November sweeps casualties: ABC has pulled Tuesday sitcoms "it's like, you know . . ." and "Sports Night," though the latter will be back once during the derby, which kicks off tonight.
And, though his previous NBC special--in which he pretended to be someone else and we were supposed to know that because he wasn't wearing his signature black cowboy hat--tanked, Garth Brooks will be back on the network Dec. 1 for a one-hour special called "Miracles of Christmas." This time, he's playing Garth Brooks.
CAPTION: Calista Flockhart as Ally McBeal is finding her ratings heat up along with her sex life, and it's the men who are tuning in.
CAPTION: "Ally McBeal" drew its largest audience when Ally (Calista Flockhart, above) and Lucy Liu shared a kiss.
CAPTION: Lucy Liu plays Ling, Ally's law-office nemesis, in Fox's "Ally McBeal."