Does “Will & Grace” have to teach us to entertain us? Have we become so tightly wound that we have to find meaning and social relevance everywhere and in everything, even in sitcoms? Come on, people, lighten up.
It seems like we’ve never set such high standards for a sitcom revival, because “Will & Grace” has already accomplished so much. In 2012, Vice President Joe Biden said the show “probably did more to educate the American public than almost anything” as he became the highest-ranking politician in America, at the time, to endorse gay marriage. (Many others soon followed his example.)
Yes, “Will & Grace” deserves tremendous credit for offering nuanced, multidimensional portrayals of gay characters. But I recently found myself the odd woman out when a group of friends suggested that the show might have been groundbreaking years ago, but was no longer as important this time around because LGBT acceptance has improved so much. They wondered if the show is still worth producing if it’s no longer unprecedented.
Well, yes. For at least two reasons: First, because large pockets of the country are still mired in homophobia and second, because it’s a good, funny show.
If “Will & Grace” happens to address LGBT issues and the current political landscape, that’s great, and I’ll be happy to see it and to learn from it. But if it doesn’t, that’s fine, too. The fact is, this show is a whole lot more than just a half-hour situation comedy about two gay men and their straight female friends. Labeling it that way does it a disservice.
I am one of those people who was obsessed with the original, and you can bet that watching the revival will be a priority. But that has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that Will and Jack are gay. For me, it was about the characters, their chemistry and the comedy.
Will and Grace, Jack and Karen were likable and funny and wounded in their own way. They were all unlucky in love, but continued to look for it in all the wrong places. And at least they had each other. I loved Grace’s tendency to burst into an out-of-pitch, made-for-a-soprano song when she was feeling blue; Will’s penchant for good housekeeping; Jack’s “jazz hands”; and Karen’s shallow, alcohol and pill-induced “if it’s in her head, it will come out of her mouth” wisecracks.
Their relationships with each other were strong and unique. Their sarcasms was always wrapped in unconditional love and delivered with a smile. Somehow you always knew that although their putdowns were flying at warped speed, every one of the characters would have opened a vein for the others.
So I think putting the entire weight of this revival’s success on whether or not it is still socially relevant is a tunnel-visioned mistake. I don’t need to learn something every time I turn on the TV. I don’t watch “I Love Lucy” reruns because it’s a sociological look at a Cuban immigrant marrying an American woman and taking a bandleader job meant for a native New Yorker. I tune in because they make me escape into laughter, and who doesn’t need that?
Every now and then, entertainment is all I require when I choose what to watch. And, if you make me laugh — which Will, Grace, Jack and Karen do the way Lucy, Ricky, Fred and Ethel did — I’m your loyal friend for life.
As one of my wise friends put it, “The ‘Will & Grace’ revival could be garbage and I’d still be pretty loyal to my martini-soaked Karen Walker.”