You might get a laugh or two, but this show is more disjointed, and more foul, than the original.
When Will & Grace first plopped down on the NBC television couch in 1998, homosexual characters were still an anomaly on television.
Roseanne had featured the first gay kiss just four years earlier. Ellen DeGeneres had just come out on her self-titled sitcom in 1997—and her show was cancelled the next year. And before Will & Grace, an American sitcom had never been anchored by a pair of openly gay characters: the titular Will and his friend, Jack.
The series proved enormously popular. Even now, the LGBTQ community lauds it as a landmark cultural moment for its movement.
But no show (with the possible exception of The Simpsons) runs forever. After eight seasons and steadily declining ratings, Will & Grace officially signed off in 2006. For good.
Or did it?
While it may be true that no show runs forever, there’s nothing to say that a network can’t bring a show back every now and then.
And so NBC has, and now it’s in the 11th and, for the second time, final season.
We live in a television age in which everything old is new again. Turn to CBS, and you can watch MacGyver (a show originally hailing from the 1980s) or Hawaii Five-0 (the ’60s). The CW resurrected Dynasty. And don’t even get me started on Netflix, what with its revamped versions of Gilmore Girls and Full(er) House, even Voltron.
No wonder NBC figured there might still be an audience to watch the crass characters from Will & Grace quip and barb and preen. Never mind that the original finale gave both Will and Grace (Will’s female, heterosexual roommate) spouses and children and seemed to shut the door on a reboot forever. That thing? NBC tells us in the first episode of the new show. Never happened.
And so, everything is pretty much the same as it always was, with a few cosmetic changes here and there: Single Grace living with an engaged Will; Jack living next door with his new husband, Estefan; and Karen wandering in and out whenever there’s a need for a boozy, clueless, conservative foil. Will and Grace aren’t married. And they certainly don’t have children. At least, not yet.
But while longtime fans of the show may appreciate the comforting sameness of it all, we at Plugged In have a different take.
Look, I get it: Plugged In is part of Focus on the Family, a Christian organization that holds true to a biblical understanding of sexuality and marriage. No one would expect this site to endorse the LGBTQ underpinnings of Will & Grace.
But let me be honest: Even if every character on this show was heterosexual, it would be just as problematic. Yes, Will & Grace normalized same-sex attraction. But even more so, the show celebrates promiscuity. And that’s not just sinful: It’s sad, too.
Oh, friendship has its place in Will & Grace, of course. And that’s nice and all. But the fact that most of the show’s characters are still exactly the same, suggests that change—trying to improve ourselves every day—is undesirable. Or impossible. Or both. Happiness is found in doing the same things we’ve always done, day after day, year after year, reboot after reboot.
And things may be changing a little in the 11th and final season, but will it be enough? It seems that NBC has created a world of no truth and no consequences … just some (admittedly dynamite) chemistry and a steady stream of naughty (but predictable) jokes.
For me, this NBC continuation offers very little real grace.
Jack avoids sharing his true feelings with his new husband, Estefan. Grace finds out she’s pregnant after a promiscuous stint in Europe. Will asks Karen for help when Will finds out his fiancé, McCoy, wants to have phone sex.
Will talks about the possibility of carrying a baby and admits to researching the medical process. Karen jokingly engages in phone sex with Will. Two men prepare to have phone sex, via a webcam, but instead talk about their feelings (we see one man’s bare thighs as he sits without pants). Jack and his husband kiss and talk about showering together.
There are multiple jokes made about sexually transmitted diseases, male and female genitalia, promiscuity, governmental sex scandals, pansexuality, lubricants and foreplay.
Karen says “frickin” and “a–.” A woman smokes a cigarette and drinks a martini.
Grace is doing design work for a high-powered lesbian client named Donna (guest star Chelsea Handler). She discovers that her sister, Janet, is in a same-sex relationship with Donna—even though at the beginning of the episode Janet apparently wasn’t a lesbian. Meanwhile, Will, Jack and Karen drink chocolate milk that one of Will’s law students apparently laced with drugs.
Will and Jack hallucinate and imagine themselves to be soulmates (even though before Jack got high, he was showing off the wedding rings for his and Estefan’s impending nuptials). When the drugs wear off, Will debates whether he should tell the college dean what happened. Jack says he can “do the right thing or be the cool teacher that all the kids like.” “Ah, they’re adults,” Will says, waving off his concerns.
We hear a litany of ribald references to Jack’s previous promiscuity (involving a variety of sexual acts). Janet and Donna’s newfound relationship offers yet more risqué dialogue along similar lines. We hear that Janet recently suffered a broken relationship—this one of the heterosexual variety. “Frank’s cheating on me,” she tells Grace, but then she adds that Frank’s wife is returning from active duty, ending the relationship in any case.
Karen complains of a “handsy” doorman. When Will says his building doesn’t have a doorman, Karen says that makes so much more sense. “What kind of doorman would test people for colon cancer?” she says. She’s finalizing her divorce, and she apparently gets the state of Vermont in the settlement. “Suck it, New England!” she says. (Jack adds that he used to have a T-shirt with those words on it, too.) Karen insists that she’s not particularly upset about the divorce: “Feelings are for poor people and the liberals who love them,” she says.
Janet vapes and speculates about what color her urine should be. Donna suggests that she was once a regular heroin user. Someone references going to synagogue. Will promises Jack, “in front of God and all the high-end male erotica in this apartment,” that he’ll always be Jack’s best friend. Hallucinating, Will and Jack see a character from Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale (a drama about women in a strict, dystopian religious society) and mimic some of the show’s religiously inflected greetings. Character say “a–,” “b–ch,”, “crap” and misuse God’s name twice.
Will wakes Karen up from a trance during a game of Heads Up, during which she apparently dreamed up the show’s original finale. Will, Grace and Jack then explain the “real” status of everyone in the show. Later, Will tries to hook up with a senator with whom he disagrees politically. Meanwhile Grace debates whether to take a contract to redecorate the White House, even though she loathes the person residing (and presiding) in it.
Jack kindles a relationship with a Secret Service agent. The two men kiss briefly. Karen asks of Jack, “Did you get serviced?” “It’s a secret,” Jack says.
Later, to save Will and Grace from trouble (they had a destructive pillow fight in the Oval Office), Jack hooks up with the agent again. “The things I had to do to Lennie to keep you guys out of trouble,” he tells them. “Thanks!” Jack insists everyone in the Secret Service is gay (“Who better to read a room?” he quips). He talks about how he strained his groin while positioned over the top of someone. And he worries that he might get “finger herpes” while scrolling through Grindr. When Will is trying to woo the senator via email, Jack notes that he’s showing signs of excitement, including “presenting” (sticking his crotch forward). When Jack learns the object of Will’s desire, he says that he’s trying to hook up with a “power gay,” otherwise known as an “Anderson Cooper.”
Jokes are made about both female and male genitals, and Karen squeezes Grace’s breasts multiple times. When Grace leaves the White House—apparently without taking the contract—she says she did make one minor improvement there. The camera zooms in on a telltale red baseball cap that reads, “Make America Gay Again.”
Karen downs multiple martinis and wakes up to the sound of someone rattling her pills in her ear. When a White House servant pours her a cocktail, she demands that he give her more than the “Laura Bush” pour, but the full “Pat Nixon.” Will and Grace hit each other in the face with pillows. Jack calls Will a “sad, middle-aged lady.” There’s a joke about flatulence in an elevator. Several political gags are also made, mostly at the expense of the current administration. Characters say “d–n” and “h—,” and God’s name is also misused.
Paul Asay has been part of the Plugged In staff since 2007, watching and reviewing roughly 15 quintillion movies and television shows. He’s written for a number of other publications, too, including Time, The Washington Post and Christianity Today. The author of several books, Paul loves to find spirituality in unexpected places, including popular entertainment, and he loves all things superhero. His vices include James Bond films, Mountain Dew and terrible B-grade movies. He’s married, has two children and a neurotic dog, runs marathons on occasion and hopes to someday own his own tuxedo. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.
Kristin Smith joined the Plugged In team in 2017. Formerly a Spanish and English teacher, Kristin loves reading literature and eating authentic Mexican tacos. She and her husband, Eddy, love raising their children Judah and Selah. Kristin also has a deep affection for coffee, music, her dog (Cali) and cat (Aslan).
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