Will and Grace, ten years later


I caught a couple of episodes of “Will & Grace” not long ago.



Cute. Snappy. Arch.




But . . .



So, okay, fine, it was about a gay man. But his main relationship was with a straight woman, his best friend, without whom he felt incomplete.






Eric McCormick was charming, but there was always a hollowness in his portrayal of Will. Frankly, I think the character is written unconvincingly: flawed, lonely, somehow perversely in love with Grace despite being gay.  All Will’s relationships bombed, and Grace charged back in, his Bestest Best Friend.  And somehow it just didn’t quite make sense.



Debra Messing as Grace was funny and manic, and as the show progressed, she perfected her Lucille Ball meta-impression. But (once again) the character was written badly. Grace was selfish and nervous and bad at relationships, just like Will. Remember when Grace married Harry Connick Jr.? That didn’t last. (Harry Connick hinted meaningfully in interviews that the lack of chemistry extended off-camera also.)



A long time ago, someone – Cleveland Amory? – wrote that it’s almost impossible to have a sitcom about an unlikeable character. He was talking about a two-season wonder called “Phyllis,” a spinoff of “Mary Tyler Moore” starring Cloris Leachman. To be fair to the show and to Cloris, the unlikeable Phyllis of the original show had evolved a good deal, and was a sort of funny zhlub. But the show bombed anyway.



Fast forward to a Nineties hit/fiasco called “Mad About You.” Paul Reiser and Helen Hunt are a cute married couple in New York City: selfish, strange, neurotic. Ultimately unlikeable. After a while, I stopped watching the show.



Ditto “Frasier.” Very funny writing, but everyone on the show was a jerk.




Anyway: back to “Will & Grace.” Unlikeable characters, buried in one another, and not much fun to watch when they interacted with others. (Apart, of course, from Jack and Karen, who were designed to be even more selfish and oblivious than Will and Grace, but who were cartoonish and goofy enough to be funny.)



But it was a milestone for gay people. It was our sitcom. We were obliged to watch.



It feels dated now, like Grandma’s purse. We’ve come along since then. Ten years later: Mitchell and Cam and Lily. Ellen. Graham Norton. Dean Pelton on “Community.” Glee, for God’s sake!



But thank you, Will and Grace. In your perverse not-really-very-gay way, you helped.






About Loren Williams
Gay, partnered, living in Providence, working at a local university. Loves: books, movies, TV. Comments and recriminations can be sent to futureworld@cox.net.

One Response to Will and Grace, ten years later

  1. Wyrd Smythe says:

    I was a big fan of both MAY and W&G. Both were ground-breaking shows for their time and had some very clever writing. That said, it’s nice to meet someone who recognizes that the characters were deeply flawed, hugely self-centered and seriously shallow. Maybe, in part, that was the point.

    The fanboys on USENET and the BBSes of the day used to drool over Helen Hunt as a “goddess.” I found her increasingly annoying. (Actually, her sister, Lisa, was more interesting.) To some extent they reminded me of Seinfeld, a show about people I absolutely loathed, but the writing… oh, the writing was too tasty to miss.

    Totally agree that Jack & Karen were the big draws on W&G. Totally over the top, but fun. Messing did have great comic ability I thought, and Megan Mullally continues to delight in everything in which I’ve seen her.

    Anyway, was just passing by and this post caught my eye. Nice to remember those shows!

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