Will & Grace is the latest in a long line of rebooted fan favorites. But can the newly-returned series live up to its own reputation? Our staff took some time out from our regular television schedules to catch the Will & Grace premiere and share our thoughts. From the looks of it, we’re all in agreement: the series is still an epic win.
Let’s start with an easy one: Were you a fan of Will & Grace during the series’ original run? If so, what were your feelings and/or expectations before viewing its return? If not, what made you watch this time around?
Shana: Given some of my responses below, this might surprise some people, but I was not a die-hard Will & Grace fan back in the day. Frankly, I’m ashamed of myself. Did I watch quite a lot of episodes? Yep. Enjoy myself whenever I did? Absolutely. But did I make it a point not to miss new episodes? No.
My only excuse — and it’s a weak one — is that those VHS tapes could only hold so many recordings. And unlike my beautiful dvr, they could only record one series at a time. There was no On Demand. In my day, we didn’t even have a place to purchase and download episodes. So, somehow, one of NBC’s 2938704389743 amazing comedies got lost in the shuffle.
Never again, Will & Grace. Never. Again.
Lizzie: No, not really. I’d seen a few episodes here and there in no particular order, but nothing else, and I had no real feelings or expectations regarding this. I literally just watched it because people said it was funny, and there are very few actually good comedies around. So, I figured, “what’s the harm in giving this a chance?”
Anam: I’d seen a few episodes here and there. But no, I wasn’t a big Will & Grace fan back in the day; I was more of a Friends fan. It’s a great comedy, though, and I remember the episodes I had seen being funny — Karen was a hoot.
So I figured, why not give the Will & Grace reboot a try? With everything going on in the real world, a laugh is needed every now and then.
Did you like the series’ newest episode? What were some highlights (or lowlights, as it were)?
Shana: God, yes. Yes, yes, yes. Did I mention yes? Because yes. I loved it. In some ways, it felt like Will & Grace never left. There was a familiarity about the characters that felt like coming home to old friends, and I think a lot of viewers are kind of in need of that feeling of comfort these days. (I know I needed it.)
I don’t understand how so many actors manage to dust off old characters and just become them again, but this cast never missed a beat.
And. It. Was. So. Funny. There were so many great lines that kind of took a poke at life in 2017, all while maintaining the core of the series’ original feel. I liked that we kind of just dove right in and then used Karen’s “awakening” as a way to give viewers a quick update on what had changed (besides, you know, everything about the real world as we thought we knew it) in the past decade-plus.
I’m always here for a good drag of 45, so I loved the Cheeto bit in the Oval Office, and there was also the whole, “I used to be ‘woke.’ Now, I use my pussy hat to sneak candy into the movies” line. Debra Messing’s delivery was amazing, and just that little bit of dialogue spoke volumes.
God, that line was so real! How many women — especially rich, white women — got out there to really protest and be active during the Women’s March, bought those hats…and then went right back to life as usual without ever really committing to standing up for those in society who needed it the most? Exactly. A lot.
Then, of course, there’s everything about Karen Walker. Megan Mullally has got to be one of the most hilarious people to ever be on television. That’s right: ever…and notice I said “people,” not restricted to women.
And, um. “Scary orange balls.” Dead.
“MAKE AMERICA GAY AGAIN.” More dead.
My one gripe with Will & Grace’s return is the background laughter from the live filming. It sounded like a laugh track, which just made me feel like I was watching some Chuck Lorre garbage.
Lizzie: I did, more than I expected, even if everyone had promised it was going to be hilarious. I don’t think it’s the best comedy on TV — it’s not even the best comedy on NBC — but there’s definitely a place for Will & Grace. I especially liked that Grace was “woke,” as she herself put it. She was, without a doubt, my least favorite character in the original; but this time I found myself liking the two characters who give this show its name more than the sidekicks, for a change. Also, the sheer talent of these actors still blows me away. I laughed even when they weren’t even speaking.
Anam: YES!!! It was hilarious! The characters were true to themselves, just moving on with added technologies and antidotes about the current political climate. Will and Grace are still as in tune with each other as ever. They have a formula that worked for them back during the original run. A lot of shows have come back and tried to either keep the original formula or change it up; and a lot of them haven’t done well — even if some have. But this show works. The formula works. They kept it. It was light, it was airy, and there was shade being thrown at all things politics. With the cumquat in office, comedians have hit the jackpot. Not all reboots are a good idea, but this one was.
In its original run, Will & Grace made a big impact on pop culture, particularly as it related to gay representation in mainstream comedy. Is there a pressure to have a similar impact in 2017; and if so, do you believe the series is on track to do so? Is there an issue that you believe the series should tackle?
Shana: Oh, there’s definitely pressure. I’m going to stay in my lane here and not try to speak for someone else’s community. But I feel like, had I been one of those people really getting a chance to “see” myself as a lead on a sitcom like this, I’d be terrified that a reboot would somehow be a letdown. I’ve also read plenty of articles that state that what Will & Grace did the first time around just plain wasn’t enough, so I’d love to see some of the bits that those viewers found problematic given an overhaul.
Then, there’s just the very idea that the current generation is far less tolerant of bullshit. So, if this series is, to some of those viewers, a poor representation of the community — especially after Will & Grace has been given so much hype over being so groundbreaking in its LGBTQIA+ portrayal — social media is going to hear about it.
Outside of the social issues, there’s even the reputation of that award-winning and award-nominated level of comedy to live up to. YIKES.
As far as what I might like to see from Will & Grace goes, I’m thinking we should add some letters. That is, let’s get some of the Ts, Qs, Is, and As into the communities represented by this series. It’s 2017. Time for a reboot.
And I also think…God, I hope I don’t put this the wrong way.
As a general rule, viewers are allowed to ship whatever they want. Fine. I’m not going to tell people how to watch television. But. But. I do feel like, given that we’ve known Will was gay since forever, that it leaves a weird taste in my mouth to look back and remember there were people kind of rooting for Will to magically “change teams” and suddenly be in love with Grace, rather than simply loving her. I’d be very interested, from the lense of 2017, to see what these characters have to say about that old, outdated concept of hoping you can “turn” someone straight.
Sometimes, the best relationships, even (gasp!) between men and women, are friendships. Period. Will and Grace’s friendship was always the driving force of this series. Obviously, Eric McCormack and Debra Messing had, and still have, insane chemistry. But it’s not that kind of chemistry.
Sorry, not sorry, but fellow viewers? Just don’t go there. Please. I’m begging you.
Lizzie: There’s always pressure, especially when you come back so many years after the original run and in such a sensitive time as we live in right now. Grace might have joked that Will was woke; but in general, people are woke now, so every little misstep is magnified. But then again, I would imagine that’s something the show knows.
The thing they gotta be really mindful of, honestly, is being fun while not just promoting stereotypes. I realize this is a comedy, and they’re making fun of themselves most of the time, but even though LGBTQIA+ representation is now more widespread that it was when Will & Grace first aired, that also means people expect more from the representation they’re seeing. It means they’re going to ask more of the show than to just have LGBTQIA+ characters on screen. And that’s good. That’s how we all grow.
Anam: There’s definitely pressure, especially since they were so adamant about addressing the issues back during Will & Grace’s original run. I agree with Shana in that this generation is less tolerant to bullshit. We’re a generation that shares anything and everything over the internet, and we know when bullshit is said right away. For example, Megyn Kelly brought a Will & Grace fan on during her interview with the cast and asked if the show made him gay. That comment right there was moronic and not at all sensitive to a community that sees hate on the daily.
The LGBTQIA+ community wants to see themselves represented in mainstream media just like the rest of us. I can’t speak for them, but as a minority, I get it. Diversity is important, and the TV industry is definitely moving more towards that. This year’s Emmys was one of the most diverse in history. But there’s still a long way to go.
All shows are held to higher standard these days than they were during the original run of Will & Grace, so they will need to step it up. That’s something I’m hoping the creators knew before they decided to bring the series back; I also hope they do it justice.
Also, ditto on the whole shipping thing…Will and Grace are incredible friends, and there is nothing wrong with a show that is focused on a platonic relationship, rather than a romantic one. (The X-Files, this isn’t an okay for you all to claim Scully and Mulder are platonic friends…)
And the obvious topics here: With so many reboots in recent years, are there any series that you would like to see come back? Or any that you don’t want touched with a ten-foot pole? How do you think Will & Grace stacks up against other 90s and early 00’s favorites that have made a return?
Shana: Y’all. Y’all. I’m so torn here. I’m kind of salty about the lack of original ideas in entertainment — like, everything seems to be reboots, literary adaptations, and formulaic whatever — but at the same time, I love this feeling of seeing familiar faces again. I just…I miss the good ol’ days, ok?
Sticking to just NBC for hypotheticals: I sobbed like an infant when I lost Mad About You, but they’d have to completely ignore the series finale in order to reboot that one. ER was so good and had such a satisfying ending for some of the original cast members that I’d probably want to hurt someone if they rebooted that and messed it up. But then again, there was the open ending with Rachel Greene…So, maybe something that highlighted her journey? Mostly new cast, some references to the doctors and nurses we used to obsess over — yeah, I could get behind that.
Not related to NBC: Can we reboot America already?
And as far as comparisons go, let’s see: 90210 and Melrose Place were both rebooted by The CW, only to completely tank...And a certain legendary FOX series about some alieums was awesome to watch — especially thanks to its cast — but made the stupid mistake of making its return about an overly-ambitious new conspiracy, rather than sticking with what worked: the leads’ relationship. Will & Grace did the exact opposite: Those core friendships (on that other show, “friendship” is not the right word — neither is “platonic”) stayed core with Will & Grace’s return, so that’s already a huge win. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, folks.
Lizzie: I’m actually fine, right here, without reboots. The X-Files was my number one, and that came back but wasn’t all I wanted it to be, so…yeah, no. I’m good.
Anam: Who doesn’t miss the 90s and wish we were in a simpler time? The reboots popping up left and right are a mix of nostalgia and “why are you doing this?” Some of them work wonderfully; others not so much. Fuller House, Gilmore Girls, Girl Meets World…these are reboots or spin-offs of some of my favorite shows, but they didn’t do the originals justice. As much as I wanted to like these, they just didn’t live up to the nostalgia.
As far as what I would love to see come back…Friends. This show still makes me laugh just as hard as it did the first time around. I remember the tears from when it ended, and a still of the keys on the table still makes my heart flutter. I would love to see Friends come back — but only if they kept with the original formula like Will & Grace did.
How? I don’t know. I mean, Monica and Chandler moved, the apartment is gone…Actually, don’t touch Friends if you can’t bring back the stuff that worked and have a really good explanation on how they went from that ending to however it starts up again.
Also, not the 90s but: True Blood needs to do a movie or something because I really miss Eric and Pam. Or better yet, just do those mini webisodes with the two of them.
Will & Grace airs Thursday night at 9/8c on NBC.