The trend of bringing back television continues with Will and Grace, but this may turn into the exception that proves the potential. At its prime, the series hovered around the top 5 and wherever it might have been in the ratings, it had people talking. But, shows get pulled for a lot of reasons, and it isn’t necessarily just because it can’t hold onto the same size audience.
If you’re wondering why there is suddenly a push to bring show’s back, it’s because the landscape has changed. The last season of Will and Grace only had around half the total audience it did at its highest point, but that audience would land a show a prime spot on the charts today.
The problem here is that the show seemed to also be running out of gags. We’d done what we could with the premise and characters, and churning along just for the sake of showing up wasn’t going to keep people tuning in. We may have a ready-made audience now, but we don’t have new ideas. What we have is a President we can make fun of, flightly characters who will sell out their ideals for just about any reason, and a lot of physical comedy that we’ll milk for several minutes out of every 22.
That said, I should admit that I have a strange relationship with the original series. I always liked Will and Grace, though I never could quite get to a place where I was comfortable saying that I liked that I liked Will and Grace. It was a strange mix of characters, and actors, which meant that it had something for everyone, and you could probably find a few laughs no matter who you were. Eric McCormack and Sean Hayes were always too good for the show, and Debra Messing and Megan Mullalley were never quite good enough, but it all balanced out to some degree.
The series now has gone full Three’s Company, but with the presumption that it can spin a lot of mileage out of gay and gay-friendly characters living with Trump as President. The political angle kicks off the show as both of the stars are apparently fine with any political view, as long as they get something out of it, which is a really fantastic thematic tilt for a show that at one time tried to bring some legitimacy to the on-screen treatment of gay characters. Worse, perhaps, Karen Walker’s (Mullalley’s character) “vapid wealth as character” has become rather off-putting considering she can’t stop telling Grace that, “her guy won.” Sit-com sensibilities taken into account as much as possible, I find it hard to imagine that Will and Grace made it through the election and aftermath with Karen shoving Trump in their face.
Still, one of the show’s main draws was also that it’s just so hard to dislike these “bag of flaws” characters, and the same brand of fun still exists in small doses. Sean Hayes is still perfect and though McCormack is trapped by some of the things his character is made to do, he can still cut through most of it with a disarming charisma that pulls you along and convinces you that something better is on the horizon. It’s a lot harder to succumb completely now, and what you quickly become convinced of is actually more along the lines of the extent to which this thing is probably going to fly off the rails in a few episodes… but somehow McCormack can sway you into following along anyway.
Messing, on the other hand, is exactly as good as she was in The Mysteries of Laura. Do with that what you will.
Those who are sold simply on the memory of the show they used to love aren’t likely to be overly disappointed if they are willing to just let themselves be carried by the show’s general theory of “antics” comedy. Some fans may find themselves a bit distanced by the fact that where this covers new ground, it isn’t funny, and where it’s funny, it’s nothing new. Where this thing finds new viewers is a tough call though, and that puts it in a position to hope against hope for the ratings that got The Mysteries of Laura canceled.
The one shot the show has is that even if it seems to be aiming at lower comedy than you’d expect, and even if you dislike such things as Will’s ability to throw out his political viewpoint for a date, it’s still a light comedy with some effort at wit, and it doesn’t talk down to you. Audiences could well find that there’s a hole to fill there.