After an 11-year absence from Thursday nights on NBC, “Will & Grace” is back, and the same as ever.
And that’s a good thing.
Rather than change the formula and the characters, creators David Kohan and Max Mutchnick stuck to what worked in 1998. By the end of the premiere, the characters are right back to where they started in the pilot.
Anything different would miss the point of the reunion, which is pretty much just 90s nostalgia. The only difference from the original show is the time, the technology, and the culture (it’s a little bit easier to be young and gay).
I was honestly dreading the return of this show, possibly due to NBC’s aggressive marketing campaign. In New York City, the ads followed me everywhere for weeks (maybe months). I’m also not a huge fan of revivals and reunions, knowing there are enough people out there who can create great original shows.
But in a time when “Game of Thrones” isn’t airing new episodes, and there’s not a lot of great fall TV to look forward to, I watched the screeners of the first three episodes of as soon as NBC made them available to journalists. The new episodes of “Will & Grace” are a lot better than I expected, and maintain the humor and spirit that audiences fell in love with 19 years ago.
The first episode, which is loaded with jokes that are critical of President Trump, starts with a game of Heads Up – a 2017 upgrade that is ironically a very 2012 reference – which quickly establishes where these characters are politically, culturally, and romantically.
The next two episodes, which are more traditional “Will & Grace” episodes based in New York City, also prove that the show’s characters and sense of humor stand the test of time. Will, Grace, Jack, and Karen might not be well-adjusted adults (and they likely never will be), but the show itself has adjusted well to 2017.
These are the best moments from the very Trump heavy-and very funny-return of “Will & Grace.”
The show gets political right away.
The political jokes start firing within the first 20 seconds, while the gang plays Heads Up.
“We want to love her, but she makes it impossible,” Will says. And immediately Grace shouts, “Caitlyn Jenner!” Caitlyn Jenner is open about being a conservative, and openly supported Trump during the election.
Next, Will says, “Rich. Hostage.” And Grace shouts, “Melania!” But she’s wrong – once Will gives the clue “beret,” she realizes it’s Patty Hearst.
Grace is getting a divorce and living with Will, yet again. And Jack still lives across the hallway. And Karen is still, well, Karen.
This takes the show right back to where it started in the pilot, with Grace moving in with Will, although at the beginning of the episode they say it’s “temporary.” Jack still lives across the hallway in Will’s building, and Karen still works as Grace’s (terrible) assistant.
The show subtly comments on elite white liberals when Will and Grace discuss the fact that they’re “woke.” Or are they?
Will is writing a congressman who’s trying to gut the EPA. Will is not a fan, but admits that he’s very attractive.
“You are so woke,” Grace says. “I used to be woke. Now I use my p—y hat to sneak candy into the movies.”
Karen is a Trump supporter.
Grace has to have a conversation with Karen about keeping her politics out of the office. At one point in the episode, Grace tells Karen that her lack of interest in the environment could rob her of alcohol one day. Karen responds, “Eh, rich people won’t be affected.”
Grace has the opportunity to redesign Trump’s Oval Office. And Will has the opportunity to meet the hot congressman who’s trying to gut the EPA.
“Melania called me last night after one of her night terrors,” Karen says. “She said the hubster’s been pouting because his office is a real dump.” And in typical Karen fashion, Karen offers Grace’s services to Melania without Grace’s approval.
Grace is hesitant to actually go to the White House, because Trump represents everything she hates. But she goes because Karen helps her realize it could be worth it for her career, and Grace realizes her life is repeating itself.
Although Will is hesitant to meet the hot congressman, Jack convinces him to go. Will has the same worries about his life as Grace, so he gives in, too.
So Grace and Karen go to Washington, but Grace doesn’t tell Will. And Will and Jack go to Washington, but Will doesn’t tell Grace. They’re both trying new things because they’re worried they’re backtracking in their lives.
Will, Grace, Jack, and Karen go to the White House, where the majority of the episode takes place.
At the White House, Will and Jack fondly look back on the Obama administration. Will points out the garden “where Michelle Obama introduced broccoli to the Midwest.”
While Grace and Karen are in the Oval Office, Karen reminisces on the time she spent there with Nancy and Ronald. And Grace wonders what curtains will go best with the president’s coloring, as she takes out a bag of Cheetos.
When Will and Grace see each other at the White House, the traditional everything-goes-completely-wrong events start to unfold, which ends with Will and Grace accepting the fact that they’re right back to where they started when Grace moved in with him in the pilot episode.
After the premiere, it doesn’t stay as political.
The show is inherently political since it follows the lives of openly gay men in New York City, and Karen is a rich white snob. But it goes back to its very specific pop culture references, the dating adventures of Will and Jack, and the unconventional friendship between Grace and Karen, who, in 2017, would probably be defined as “frenemies.”
In the next two episodes of the new season, the gang adjusts to their lives, which are completely the same as we last saw them, but in a completely different time.