Welcome to a new Sitcom Tuesday! Next week, I’ll begin my long-promised coverage of the 2017 revival of Will & Grace, so I’m excited to set the figurative table by resurrecting a piece I wrote on behalf of the original series. As usual with these reruns, I’m providing a link to a post that I first published many seasons back, and then offering a bit of updated commentary. But, as I always caution, please be gentle; this article is from a long time ago, and my standards have changed as I’ve changed — I’ve improved as a thinker, a communicator, and a television-watcher.
So, let’s revisit… The Ten Best WILL & GRACE Episodes of Season Five: https://jacksonupperco.com/2019/12/10/the-ten-best-will-grace-episodes-of-season-five/
Frankly, the revival of Will & Grace does a pretty good job of recapturing the spirit of the original… for better and for worse. That is, the new show, like the old, benefits from a big-laugh sensibility that’s so ribald it can feel burlesque, prioritizing the genre’s comedic requirement to maximize enjoyment. But many of the first Will & Grace’s shortcomings also come back to the fore — and majorly. So, I wanted to take this rerun to briefly encapsulate my commentary on the original. For starters, I should say that, as a Must See TV staple, Will & Grace was often saddled with many episodic gimmicks (like casting stunts) that obscured a pure focus on the “situation” and the characters within it. We’ll see this continue — particularly in the revival’s first season — albeit in a slightly different form. What’s more, as a low-concept “singles in the city” rom-com, Will & Grace, like Friends, often shaped narrative arcs around its leads’ pursuit of romantic happiness. And indeed, its established thesis was that Will and Grace were a de facto couple in love… only they couldn’t truly be together because he’s gay and they’ll never be satisfied. Thus, in order to find what they both seek, they have to evolve out of this lovable but basically unhealthy co-dependent dynamic. Early years tried to explore this notion — reaching a crucible in Season Five, when the pair’s friendship almost ruptured. But after that, this premise was barely acknowledged… well, until a controversial finale that literally separated the duo so they could get their happy endings. Like the latter half of the original, this new Will & Grace will come to downplay that thesis (and rewrite its ending), and in doing so it will, as on the original, effectively give itself an excuse to stop evolving the leads. This is not ideal; all these rom-coms are predicated on implied emotional growth — flawed characters pursuing relationships with other flawed characters before they progress into a happily ever after. As on most long-running shows, it’s hard to keep movement consistent — and in fact, with a need for Sweeps-timed narrative beats, there were a lot of unmotivated stops and starts to romantic arcs (some with nebulously defined partners) that, at best, felt unearned, and at worst, felt regressive. We’ll find more of this on the revival — as the series leans into the storytelling that sustained it for the back half of its initial run, but now not even at that same quality. Stay tuned…
Come back next week for more Will & Grace! And stay tuned for a new Wildcard!