When Will & Grace premiered on NBC nearly two decades ago, it was a big deal. TV series with gay characters were either a stunt (“a very special Roseanne“) or even ignored (such as the time when FOX pulled away from a gay kiss on Melrose Place). Will & Grace came onto the scene with a series that was fun not just because of how it was groundbreaking at the time, but because the core characters of the show were legitimately funny.
Last year, the cast of Will & Grace reunited for a mini-episode that tied into the U.S. Presidential election; ultimately, that prompted this current revival, which might be one of the least awkward returns for an American series that we’ve seen.
Don’t get me wrong — I love reunions and revivals. Many times, thinking back even to something like A Very Brady Christmas, it’s fun to check in with old favorites; but usually, things are quite different. The Bradys of 1988 certainly aren’t the Bradys of 1973, who also aren’t the same Bradys that did a variety show. But this new Will & Grace… aside from perhaps the tone that having gay characters doesn’t have the same impact it had in the year 2000, it feels like the exact same show.
And there’s nothing wrong with that, as the first episode back, “11 Years Later” which airs tonight on NBC, is so comfortable that is doesn’t feel like Will, Grace, Jack and Karen have been gone long at all.
Yes, they have to retcon away the series finale of Will & Grace, as Roseanne will inevitably have to do next year as well. And, yes, the premiere is a bit political, but it’s done to comedic effect and is probably something the show had to get out of its system. But Eric McCormack, Debra Messing, Megan Mullaly, and Sean Hayes are all in fine form, as is the writing. I laughed out loud at several points in the season premiere — and very few series can actually make me do that.
If this new Will & Grace is successful – and they’ve already been renewed for a second season – it might inspire even more reboots of old favorites. But chances are good none will land as well as the first episode of this revival did.
Will & Grace “11 Years Later” airs tonight (September 28) at 9PM ET/PT on NBC.