Old friends are back on the airwaves. Last week the NBC sitcom “Will & Grace” returned after an 11-year absence embraced by ratings that harken back to the peacock network’s “Must See TV” days.
The comedy was groundbreaking when it debuted in 1998, fearlessly focusing on the funny relationship between best friends Will Truman (Eric McCormack) a gay lawyer, and Grace Adler (Debra Messing), a straight interior designer. It followed their everyday lives and adventures that were shared with their hilarious friends Jack McFarland (Sean Hayes) and Karen Walker (Megan Mullally). They said their goodbyes in a very satisfying series finale in 2006, but now, thanks to producers-creators Max Mutchnick and David Kohan, the entire cast was brought back for a return edition. And chairman of NBC Entertainment, Robert Greenblatt has already ordered a second season of 13 episodes for next year.
The stars and creative teams from the show were at the Television Critics Association’s summer press tour to talk about their return and it was Greenblatt who introduced the Will & Grace panel. He boasted, “the funny, witty, crazy show has 83 Emmy nominations, 16 wins, including Best Comedy. All four main actors won Emmys for their roles which is extraordinary.”
The sitcom has been credited with helping and improving public opinion of the LGBT community…
Also extraordinary is the impact of the show. The sitcom has been credited with helping and improving public opinion of the LGBT community, with former Vice President Joe Biden commenting that the show probably did more to educate the American public on LGBT issues than almost anything anybody has ever done so far. But the show is not about politics. Eric McCormack explained, “We’ve always said that we set out to be funny and that the good effects that we had were fantastic gravy. We set out to be a sitcom that brought as many people in as possible, and I think the effect is that we actually brought in people from both (Red and Blue) colored states. Still our job is to be funny. Will that include political and cultural things? Of course, it will, but first and foremost it’s a funny show.”
Debra Messing reported, “When we started, it was revolutionary to have two gay characters. Now there’s so many things that are being discussed in our culture.”
Producer Mutchnick emphasized, “This show is always about inclusion. That’s the type of characters that they are, so we will get to it again. But it’s just going to be about trying to make the funniest shows that we can with these characters passing through the life that is taking place out there right now.”
Messing has been busy with many projects in between but said returning to her role as Grace has been a gift. “It was all on the page from day one. When we sat down together, it just came to life in a way that I had never experienced with anything else or since. I think, because we all started out in the theater and we sort of grew as artists, as collaborators, it very quickly became a place that was very safe to try things and to fail. I think funny happens when you take risks. And I like to think of comedy as music, and each one of the four of us is a different instrument. And when we play together, we’re at our best.”
Some of the most outrageously hysterical physical comedy has come from Sean Hayes and Megan Mullally. Getting back into doing their sidesplitting “Jack and Karen bits” is like riding a bike, according to Hayes. He said, “We’ve all become brothers and sisters and family. It’s so easy moving forward with the show. Fits like a glove. It’s just a blast. It’s a gift of a lifetime to get together and do this again.”
For Mullally, the physicality also comes easy. She said, “Between Sean and I and Jimmy Burrows (director of every episode), all that physical choreography was devised very easily and naturally.” Hayes added, “A lot of it is in the writing. They actually physically write out in the description some of the physicality. We just add our little dust to it, for whatever that’s worth.”
Margie Barron is a member of the Television Critics Association and has written for a variety of top publications for more than 35 years, and is half of the husband and wife writing team of Margie and Frank Barron.