More of the Same with WILL & GRACE (and That’s Not a Bad Thing!)
In a year where America’s thirst for nostalgia is quenched more than in years past (Roseanne, Twin Peaks, Dynasty), it’s WILL AND GRACE (NBC) that seems poised for the best success.
Since the series went off the air 11 years ago, gay rights have taken many steps forward with the legality of gay marriage and the repeal of military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”. Certainly the 16-time Emmy-winning series can’t take full credit for these advancements, however, it did succeed in changing the minds of many Americans that being gay didn’t make a person any different. Joe Biden stated in 2012 that he thought “Will & Grace probably did more to educate the American public than almost anything anybody’s ever done so far.” So it only makes sense that at a time when gay rights are under the microscope again (military trans ban) that NBC reboot this classic show.
What’s quite interesting is WILL AND GRACE‘s road back to network TV. In September 2016, the cast reunited for the first time since 2006 to film a mini-episode in a bid for people to get out and vote. The hilarious 10-minute video went viral and amassed 7+ million views showing NBC that maybe there was still water left in the well. Talks began and here we are today with season nine which sees not only the entire cast return but Director James Burrow who has been behind the camera for every episode and creators/executive producers Max Mutchnick and David Kohan overseeing production.
Appropriately titled “Eleven Years Later”, the season opener is the least satisfying of the three available episodes for preview. Feeling more like an epilogue to 2016’s mini-episode, episode one finds the fabulous four debating politics and eventually at the White House. Will (Eric McCormack) and Grace (Debra Messing) are no longer married (to other people) and the series 2006 finale episode which found the two in the future estranged and with kids was all a dream. As for their living situation, well, they’re back together again “until the dust settles” on Grace’s divorce from Leo (the ever-likable Harry Connick Jr. who returns in episode three). The episode includes many funny scenes, but WILL AND GRACE never was a political show. Instead, it was simply a well-written comedy in which two of the main characters were gay.
Through three episodes, it feels like WILL AND GRACE never left. Karen (Megan Mulally) is still drunk and high and an equal opportunity offender, Jack (Sean Hayes) is still a struggling actor, Will is still trying to find “the one”, and Grace continues to depend on Will. We’re treated to the same cast and campy humor but with new references. As smartphones didn’t exist during its initial run, the gang is now playing Heads Up and making jokes about Grindr. New slang and buzzwords exist so now we have jokes about fake news and being “woke”.
With the series already renewed for a 10th season, NBC looks like they may be the first to successfully recapture the magic of an old show (sorry Fuller House).