As we approach the return of Will & Grace, I thought I’d take a look back at the original series. One of the stars of the show (I can’t remember who … and I can’t be bothered to do research) said that the show needs to be brought back because the world was a much better place with Will & Grace in it. I think they have a point.
Many of you will be familiar with the show as it was – and remains – hugely popular, however there are a lot of people who falsely label it as a show for women or gay people. The show featured the titular Will and Grace who were in a relationship in college, however before they first ‘become intimate’, Will reveals he’s gay and can’t go through with it. Fast-forward a few years and Will and Grace are best friends living in New York. Will is a lawyer and Grace is an interior designer. The main cast is completed by Will’s best friend Jack, who is, to borrow a line from Mean Girls, ‘too gay to function’ and Karen, who is Grace’s rich, New York socialite, assistant and friend. What follows is eight series of ups and downs as our two heroes navigate the New York dating scene and their own turbulent careers. It’s a sitcom in the style of Friends or Frasier, but one with more heart … and perhaps more laughs.
The reason that one of the show’s stars (I still haven’t looked it up) said the world was a better place with Will & Grace as it was really the first time a popular, prime-time programme featured prominent gay characters. Yes, it was mainly gay men and the show didn’t tend to deal with lesbians, but for the 90s, it was a huge step forward. Today’s world may have RuPaul’s Drag Race, but what else is there? Have we really come that far since the late 90s? I’m not so sure. The world needs Will & Grace, if only so we can have Megan Mullally’s, Karen, back in our lives.
“No one in the world would believe you’re straight. You’re as gay as a clutch purse on Tony night. You fell outta the gay tree, hitting every gay branch on the way down. And ya landed on a gay guy … and ya did him. No, no, honey, your gayness can be seen from space.”
-Karen to Jack – Will & Grace
Another selling point of the show, is just how filthy and risqué it is. Friends sometimes dealt with sexual themes and made slightly salacious remarks, but Will & Grace (in a similar way to Two and a Half Men) can legitimately make you blush and wonder just how an American studio ever let it be aired. The show never feels cheap and dirty, however, as the writing and the humour is so well crafted into the fabric of the show, that it pulls it off and will have you laughing hysterically … just don’t watch it with your parents.
The reason the show became such a mega-hit, is partly to the writing, but largely due to the wonderfully cast actors. The show would not have been the hit it was without Eric McCormack’s Will Truman, Debra Messing’s Grace Adler, Megan Mullally’s Karen Walker, and the inimitable Sean Hayes as Jack McFarland (‘Just Jack!’). Not since Friends had an American sitcom been so ingeniously casted with comedic actors who not only knew how to produce the jokes, but also to bring everything down in the, often heart-breaking, softer moments.
“Sex is out of the question. I don’t even like seeing your head poke through your sweater.”
-Will to Jack – Will & Grace
I will finish by mentioning two aspects of the show that (although some people despaired off) set it apart from its peers. The first is the live shows. Towards the end of the run, the sitcom aired a couple of live shows where there is zero editing and zero do-overs. The cast frequently corpse and because they persevere with their lines as they gasp out chuckles from behind pursed lips, the episodes are completely elevated and become gut-splittingly hilarious.
The second element that sets it apart – and the last bow in my quiver, to get you to watch this iconic show – is its cameos and recurring guest stars. I know that cameos are nothing new and many sitcoms deploy them expertly, but I don’t think any show has had as many, or as huge names as Will & Grace, so I will just end with this list… Jack Black, Glenn Close, Joan Collins, Macaulay Culkin, Tim Curry, Matt Damon, Ellen DeGeneres, Michael Douglas, Neil Patrick Harris, John Cleese, Minnie Driver, Madonna, Demi Moore, Sharon Osbourne, Britney Spears, Kevin Bacon, Cher, Jennifer Lopez, Hall & Oates, Debbie Harry, Elton John, Barry Manilow, Lily Tomlin, Gene Wilder, Alec Baldwin, Jeff Goldblum, Woody Harrelson, Debbie Reynolds, and genuinely one hundred others. That list just shows how much regard the industry held for the show. A show, that never makes you feel bad, and will always leave you with a massive smile on your face.