I’m going to a Will & Grace watching party tonight, because (1) gay and (2) like, really gay. This is the thing: We all watched Will & Grace. Its timing was fortuitous. Gay topics were front-and-center at a time when social mores were changing, and (mostly) positive portrayals of same-sex relationships — and tremendous doses of camp — helped the show catch on. All the stars won Emmy Awards, as did the show itself for best comedy series.
But it wasn’t perfect. For much of the run, Will (Eric McCormack) and Jack (Sean Hayes) were socially active, but not exactly openly affectionate with their paramours. Grace (Debra Messing) had more sex… and a joke about her character was she never got sex. The quick wit and slightly in-your-face flamboyance gave straight audiences a new gay best friend (although, as a co-worker likes to point out, “Karen (Megan Mullally) was the gayest character on the show.”
The series ended with a less-than-likable finale on May 18, 2006 — more than a decade ago. The time-hopping, tie-up-all-loose ends conclusion that saw Will and Grace ignore each other for more than a decade, and seemed precious and unnecessary. Still, one of the things I always disliked about the series was how Will and Grace always talked about being best friends, but seemed constantly fighting in a way best friends wouldn’t.
But the return announcement — initially intended for just a limited run, but already renewed for a second season — has sent up a lot of rainbow flags. A straight Christian (but gay-friendly) friend of mine was ecstatic about the return tonight. Because that’s what the show seemed to do: Show our similarities more than our differences.
But the show has been off the air longer than it was on. Will it still have the same impact it once did, or will it feel recycled and out of touch? That is, of course, what we will find out tonight.
But what are you most anxious about? Excited… or fearful? Predictions? Favorite episodes? This is a gay TV milestone, whatever happens after the last credit airs. Let’s get a conversation going.
— Arnold Wayne Jones