October 25, 1999 at 04:00 AM EDT

An Emmy for Best Comedy Series is nice, but fans of ”Ally McBeal” have another reason to cheer: Tuesday’s season premiere. While Fox promos were endlessly touting Ally’s possible steamy encounter with an anonymous hunk in a car wash (good clean fun?), EW Online caught up with producer David E. Kelley, who offers viewers a peek into this season’s other developments.

Ally will remain the most neurotic lawyer on network television, but that may be the only mainstay on what promises to be a season of surprises. ”We’ll continue on the romantic and emotional life of Ally, but in all new directions,” says Kelley. ”The Billy-Ally thing is certainly over.” And since Ally’s other recurring romance has been ruled out with Jesse Martin’s jump to ”Law & Order,” the field is wide open for new suitors (expect the car wash to be just the start of the shenanigans).

Kelley says there will be no introduction of new flames or any other characters right away, but you can look forward to some familiar faces in the season opener. Tracey Ullman will return as Ally’s psychotic shrink, ”Picket Fences” star Ray Walston will make an appearance as a minister, and Barry White will strut his bad self on the episode. There are also changes in store for recurring characters throughout the season. ”Renee [Lisa Nicole Carson] does leave the district attorney’s office to start up her own firm with Judge Whipper Cone [Dyan Cannon],” says Kelley.

Kelley insists fans should expect the unexpected, and it may not always be pretty. After all, previous attempts at pushing the envelope with frog funerals and bathroom catfights haven’t always struck a chord of approval. ”The reason ‘Ally’ caught on is because it struck people as being original and innovative,” says Kelley, ”so we’ve got to break the mold a little bit and be willing to fall flat on our face with some story ideas. I think this year Ally will be walking some planks.” And we all know that can’t be easy in those miniskirts.

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In Season
Peter MacNichol,
Courtney Thorne-Smith,
Gil Bellows,
Dyan Cannon,
Lisa Nicole Carson,
Greg Germann,
Josh Ryan Evans,
James LeGros,
Peter MacNicol,
Jesse L. Martin,
Vonda Shepard
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