September 29, 2017

SHOWBUZZDAILY Season/Series Premiere Review: “Will & Grace”


WILL & GRACE:  Thursday 9PM on NBC

Nothing and everything has changed since WILL & GRACE began its run on NBC in 1998, and departed in 2006.  Every effort has been made to duplicate the original series:  not only are Eric McCormack, Debra Messing, Sean Hayes and Megan Mullally back, along with series creators David Kohan and Max Mutchnick, but director James Burrows is behind the camera once again, and much of the writing/producing team is made up of returnees.

In another sense, though, the entire world has revolved since the show’s first dance.  I worked at NBC when Will &Grace was new, and sat in meetings where the minutiae of its content was debated at length, from the timing of Will’s first on-screen date to the question of whether he’d ever be allowed to kiss another man.  Gay characters are no longer trailblazing on television, including those who are married with children, and attention has turned to shows like Transparent and I Love Dick for transgressive content.  A returning Will & Grace isn’t going to get attention, or points, just because of the sexuality of its characters.  (Notwithstanding that this very week, Alabama Republicans chose a nominee who’s on record with the kind of views that made the series daring to begin with.)

The opening episode of the rebooted Will & Grace, written by Mutchnick & Kohan and directed by Burrows, has some homework to account for all this.  There’s a jokey bit at the top to erase the ending of the original series (no, they no longer have kids, let alone kids who are married to each other).  The reboot begins with Grace temporarily staying with Will, and by the end of the half-hour, they’re officially roommates once more.  The episode doesn’t just make Trump jokes, but actually sets some of the action in the Oval Office, where Grace has been hired (for the moment) to redecorate while Will considers an affair with a Republican congressman in the Rose Garden.  But it all ends with a pillow fight and a “Make America Gay Again” baseball cap left on Trump’s chair, so everything is fine.

It’s fair to say that the writing wasn’t at its initial level by the late seasons of the original run, and many episodes seemed to be structured around guest star appearances.  The reboot premiere is a return to the crisp, character-based comedy that marked the show at the start, even if some of the White House material takes the episode a bit out of its comfort zone.  The cast may show some of the effects of time (except Mullally, who’s apparently made a deal with the devil), but they swing back into their signature roles as though their last episode was last May, instead of May 2006.

Is there an audience for a sitcom that began its life almost two decades ago?  Will & Grace will never recapture the excitement of its first seasons, but it’s still an above-average multi-camera sitcom, intelligently assembled and expertly performed.  It will face competition from the final season of Scandal (not so much from Thursday Night Football and The Orville), but NBC certainly has confidence that the fans are still there, having given the show a Season 2 (er, Season 10?) renewal before this season even began.  Will & Grace has aged, but it’s aged well.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."