*Photo Credit: NBC
Prepare to gay gasp, because Thursday September 28th Will and Grace, along with their friends Jack and Karen, will reunite with a new season of Will & Grace after 11 years off the air. The four main cast members reunited to shoot “Vote, Honey” for last year’s presidential election. After the video went viral within 24 hours of its posting, NBC took notice of the fans’ enduring love for the characters, and decided to do something that is practically unprecedented, revive the show.
Chairman of NBC Entertainment Robert Greenblatt stated in an interview with the LA Times that viewing the reunion video “felt like the show had come back together… The four of them were incredible. It just seemed like a no-brainer to me…[and] it seemed like the right moment to bring back a show that comments very clearly on pop culture and politics and the world in general.”
“Will & Grace did more to educate the American public than almost anything anybody has ever done so far.” – Former Vice President Joe Biden
The beloved, world-famous show originally ran for 8 seasons from 1998 to 2006, receiving 16 Emmy Awards, countless other accolades, and recognition as a trailblazer for the LGBTQ community. Former Vice President Joe Biden stated in an interview on NBC’s Meet the Press in 2012 that “Will & Grace probably did more to educate the American public than almost anything anybody has ever done so far.”
Before Will & Grace, no show had ever had openly gay characters in starring roles besides Ellen DeGeneres once she came out publicly on her sitcom Ellen in 1997. Her leap out of the closet led to the demise of her show the following year, during which Will & Grace coincidentally premiered.
It is no secret that Ellen ended due to the star’s coming out during the fourth season of the show. The audience knew her as a heterosexual and the topic of her dating men was featured in several episodes, so this announcement after four years of getting to know her character was shocking. People clearly felt the dynamic of the show change and they were turned off by it, causing the show to end. Ellen DeGeneres coming out as a lesbian, however, did not completely deter fans as she went on to become an extremely successful, openly gay talk show host. Her honesty may have caused her own sitcom to suffer, but also played a role in paving the way for Will & Grace’s success as a completely out show.
Will & Grace was groundbreaking because, unlike on Ellen, the gay characters were unapologetically out and proud from the very beginning. Eric McCormack, the actor behind Will Truman, confirms this directly,stating in an interview with USA Today, “We [the four lead characters] represent a lot of people in the country, gay and straight, and we’re not apologizing for who we are.” This matter-of-factness caused the audience to either accept or deny the show for what it was from the very beginning and allowed the show to move on to simply telling stories about these characters and being funny.
In the aforementioned interview, Joe Biden explained that “people fear that which is different.” In this case, people feared homosexuals and gay culture because they did not understand it. Will & Grace succeeded in enlightening straight people on the gay community by showcasing the normalcy and relatability of it through envelope-pushing comedy. Many straight people believed that gay people were completely different from themselves simply because of their difference in sexuality. Will & Grace displayed two gay men as functioning members of society, Will more so than Jack, but they were just people trying to earn a living, find love, and get through life with their best friends.
Sean Hayes, the face of Jack McFarland and an openly gay man himself, explains to Parade that Will & Grace simply allowed “people to peer into the lives of gay people… [who are] exactly the same and boring as straight people.” Displaying this commonality allowed the audience to relate to the gay characters, Will and Jack, simply as human beings, and enjoy the comedy and the characters despite their sexuality.
The premiere of the new Will & Grace is less than a week away, and due to their return being triggered by a politically-charged reunion video, people are wondering if the revival’s focus will be on the current administration. Many people are feeling overloaded with politics right now, and are looking for something to take their minds off the current state of the world. The cast and writers have assured everyone that their purpose as a show has always been, and will continue to be, simply making people laugh. Politics and popular culture will be represented in punchlines, not plot points. So rest-assured, Will & Grace will remain relevant, but also a comfort zone for relaxation and laughter.
Debra Messing, the actress behind Grace Adler, elaborates on the core objective of the show by reiterating to PopSugar that their goal is to “make [people] laugh, but [the show] is also known for being edgy, progressive, and for shining a light on every aspect of our culture. Politics, pop culture…everything is going to be fodder for comedy. Obviously because of what’s going on in our country right now, we felt the need to laugh, so we all wanted to make other people laugh.”
Will & Grace is back to do what they do best: be relevant, be gay, and be funny. As for how long they are going to stick around this time, fans can enjoy the Fab Four of comedy for at least two more seasons, but the future of the show beyond that is dependent on the audience and NBC. The cast and crew seem to be on board for the long haul as Eric McCormack noted on Today, “If they’ve got the stories, then yeah [I’m sticking around].” Megan Mullally, who plays Karen Walker on the show, exclaimed, “I’d still be doing it from the first time around… so yeah, I’m in!” David Kohan, one of Will & Grace’s creators and writers, when also asked about the show’s future by the LA Times, affirmed, “It all depends on how it goes. I think as long as it feels good, why stop?”
Season 9 of Will & Grace premieres Thursday September 28th at 9 p.m. Eastern Standard time on NBC.