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Thursday, October 29, 1998 9:31:53 AM EST
From Correspondent Sherri Sylvester
LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- It's a trend in television that might not meet the approval of traditional feminists, but is certainly meeting the interest of viewers.
The trend is summarized this way: smart women making foolish choices. In other words, female lead characters in several top shows are -- gasp -- neurotic.
For example, "Ally McBeal" is a successful lawyer, but her personal life is a mess.
And in the newest smart-gal show, "Felicity," the title character dumps her dreams of becoming a doctor to follow a high school hunk to his college. She doesn't know him, but he signed something nice in her yearbook.
Is she neurotic?
"At times," admits actress Keri Russell, who plays Felicity. "But the great thing is she has her intellect to back her up. And when she's in that crazy situation, to step outside herself and say, 'I'm acting like a freak and I know that, but I want you to know that I know that.'"
Other sitcom examples include Grace of "Will & Grace," who runs her own business, and Veronica of "Veronica's Closet," who has built an empire marketing lingerie. Both are successful, but both have been reduced to a stumbling bundle of insecurities when talking to the men in their lives.
Some don't think these characters are a flattering representation of women of the '90s.
"It scares me with 'Felicity' and 'Ally McBeal,'" says Holly Marie Combs, who stars as a witch in the WB show, "Charmed." "It is like the most popular women on TV are in desperate need of a therapist."
Others think the characters are, at worst, human.
"I think we're doing a better job of catching the intricacies and the nuances of people and if that means we show them to be a little more neurotic then we do," says Barry Garron, television critic for The Hollywood Reporter.
Peter Roth, president of Fox Entertainment, says the weaknesses of "Ally McBeal" are the things most people are attracted to.
"'Ally McBeal' appeals on many levels," Roth says. "She appeals mostly as a vulnerable, three-dimensional character, clearly flawed, but with a great, good heart."
If flawed females are a trend, it may just be a case of equal opportunity.
After all, guys like Garry Shandling and Jerry Seinfeld have long played their neuroses for laughs.
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