During an interview with Variety, writer and producer Jessica Gao explained why Ally McBeal wasn’t such a big influence on the upcoming Marvel series.
“I would say most of our writers’ room was a little bit on the young side to have really known that show during its heyday,” she explained.
Ally McBeal debuted in 1997, with 5 seasons of fourth-wall breaking from the show’s titular lawyer. But while fans can’t help but see the similarities, it looks as though Ally McBeal wasn’t such a huge influence on the show’s writing team.
“For the writers, it actually was not,” revealed Gao. “We never really talked about Ally McBeal or referenced her.”
“There were two shows that I referenced in my pitch and it was Fleabag and Better Call Saul, hopefully both for obvious reasons,” said Gao. The creator said at one point there might have been too much fourth-wall breaking, a creative tool Gao loves.
According to Gao, early versions of She-Hulk were too meta for Marvel’s liking.
“I might have really overdone it,” she said. “Because at a certain point, they even asked me to do a version where there was no fourth-wall breaking, but there was still kind of a meta kind of nature to it."
Gao revealed she "really love editor’s notes in comics, and so for a span of probably several months, there was going to be editor’s notes that kind of popped up in little text boxes on the screen, and then she would actually acknowledge the editor’s box and argue with the person who was writing the notes." However, that was perhaps too much.
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Eventually, they settled in traditional fourth-wall breaking – much like Marvel’s Deadpool. But while Ally McBeal didn’t directly influence the show, its creators couldn’t let the ground-breaking comedy go unreferenced – during an early episode, Ally McBeal can be seen playing on a TV in a bar.
“But yes, people can’t help but make the comparison to Ally McBeal,” said Gao. “So, Ally McBeal playing in the bar was a choice made during post-production.”
Ryan Leston is an entertainment journalist and film critic for IGN. You can follow him on Twitter.