Spoilers ahead—but the kind that are revealed within the first five minutes of the series premiere.
“It just felt like an old episode I hadn’t seen before.”
That was my husband’s take after watching the series premiere/return of Will & Grace. The sentence so perfectly and succinctly sums up the revival that it made me wonder if maybe he should be the writer and I should be the tax accountant.
Nothing has changed for the quartet that was blessed with a crackling chemistry. Will (Eric McCormack) and Grace (Debra Messing) are roommates. Jack (Sean Hayes) lives across the hall and Karen (Megan Mullally) has loads of money. The comedy was always chock-full of de rigueur pop-culture references, and the series name checks Shonda Rhimes, Anderson Cooper, fake news, Grindr, the Ryans Reynolds and Gossling, Caitlyn Jenner and Kellyanne Conway in the first episode. Grace now wears reading glasses and Will has purchased some new art, but that’s about it.
Since the show went off the air 11 years ago, I met and married my aforementioned husband and had two children. I’m sure a lot has happened to you in the last 11 years, too. The only thing that seems to have happened to these guys is a case of amnesia. The children that Will and Grace had at the series finale in 2006 are Bobby Ewinged away within the opening minutes. It was all just Karen’s dream. As a TV critic, I’m well practiced in the willing suspension of disbelief, so I couldn’t figure out why it bothered me so much that the series was pretending like these kids never existed. I went back and watched the end of the eighth season (because the episodes are now available on both Hulu and NBC On Demand) and realized the problem. Will and Grace both really wanted children. It was a whole thing. Grace spent an entire season pregnant. Grace even had a nightmare about what it would be like if she and Will never left each other. Granted, the series finale, which had them growing apart, didn’t make much sense. But the duo not evolving one iota in the last 11 years doesn’t make a lot of sense either. I feel like they could have altered the timeline a bit and made Lyla and Ben (who were two-ish when the show went off the air) college students, so we wouldn’t have to see them every episode but they could still be part of their world. The show has already been picked up for two seasons. Are the characters going to remain frozen in time, or will they be allowed to grow and change?
Okay, rant over. If you can get past the feeling that time has stopped, the show is completely enjoyable, because these guys still have it—the perfect timing, the spot-on delivery, the knack for physical comedy (particularly in one glorious scene with Hayes). The premiere finds Grace decorating the Oval Office and Will romancing a senator with opposing beliefs. Vice President Joe Biden credits the series with advancing the right for same sex marriage and the whole reason the cast is even together again is because they made a “get out the vote video” in 2016. So it’s probably best that they address the orange-haired elephant in the room from the outset.
The second episode finds Will romancing a 23-year-old named Blake (played by Tony winner Ben Platt). “He doesn’t like Madonna? He should be beaten with a VHS copy of Evita,” Jack exclaims. Will can’t believe how ignorant Blake, who tells Will he came out to his parents when he was eight, is about the history that came before him. “The minute we forget what we went through to get here is the minute it will all be taken away,” Will tells him, in a sentence that gets truer by the minute. The show, which remains fond of double entendres, is now also much more open about the characters’ sexuality. Will can talk about hooking up with a guy in a much more straightforward manner.
Harry Connick, Jr., returns as Grace’s ex-husband, Leo, in the third episode to rehash why their marriage ended. (Just spit-balling here, but maybe it was because GRACE FORGOT SHE HAD A CHILD.)
But, honey, if you can force yourself not to worry about the past and live in the present with these characters (who all still look fabulous, by the way), Will & Grace remains a fun, escapist delight. Just seeing the gang back together will most likely put a smile on your face. And in the current political climate, the show feels more necessary than ever. Will & Grace hasn’t changed a bit. Maybe we didn’t want it to. Maybe we needed it not to.
Will & Grace returns Thursday, Sept. 28 at 9 p.m. on NBC.
Amy Amatangelo, the TV Gal®, is a Boston-based freelance writer, a member of the Television Critics Association and the Assistant TV Editor for Paste. She wasn’t allowed to watch much TV as a child and now her parents have to live with this as her career. You can follow her on Twitter (@AmyTVGal) or her blog .