‘Will & Grace’ Returns. Why Haven’t the Show’s Characters Grown Up?

There’s nothing like a television reunion to get the nostalgic juices flowing. ABC announced this week that Roseanne would be returning to the airwaves soon. (Maybe this is the network’s attempt to understand white working class voters.) And NBC just released the trailer for the return of Will & Grace.

The sitcom about a single woman and her gay best friend—and his gay friend and her obnoxious, rich, alcoholic boss—ended a decade ago after an eight-season run. But apparently there is still an appetite for the foursome’s witty banter. They put out a short episode last year with the cast discussing Donald Trump. The jokes were exactly what you’d imagine, but there was apparently a chorus of New York and Los Angeles liberals who wanted the show back and so here they are.

It’s not that Will & Grace was never funny. It had its moments, but I almost couldn’t bear to watch the trailer because in the ten years these characters have been gone, nothing about their lives has changed. It’s not just that they look the same—hey, more power to them—and that their lines are basically the same. It’s that they are at the exact same point in their lives.

Will and Jack and Grace are all still single, still looking for love, or sex or maybe both. It’s Middle America’s stereotypical idea of life in New York City: People who perpetually act like children but never have any of their own.

Grace was always kind of a cringe-worthy character. The combination of her desperate desire to be the empowered single woman in the city and her desperate desire to find a man was a little hard to take. And the fact that nothing has changed in ten years is pretty depressing.

It’s even more bizarre, though, that the situation of the gay characters hasn’t changed. (There could be some backstory that will be revealed in the early episodes but I’m judging the situation by the fact that Will and Grace are still roommates.) The legalization of gay marriage has not changed the life either of the nice stable professional Will or of his himbo friend Jack.

The contrast to other sitcom reunions is striking. When the Brady Bunch came back it was with Jan and Marsha getting married. Leave It to Beaver gave us the next generation of the Cleavers. Will & Grace was never a family sitcom, but the show was so much about the pursuit of love that it is hard to see this remake as anything but an acknowledgement of failure—that all those years of dating and relationships ultimately led nowhere.

It does remind me of one reunion show. Fifteen years after the original Gilligan’s Island went off the air, the producers tried to put together a movie showing where all the cast ended up years after they were rescued. Unfortunately, but unsurprisingly, they wind up back on the island.

[ Clarification and correction:  Although the finale of the original TV series shows Will and Grace each getting married and having children in the future, the recent trailer for the reboot of the show strongly implies that they are not married and are still living as single roommates.  Correction: the original version of this piece stated that Karen was Grace’s boss, rather than vice-versa.  We regret the error.  ]

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  • Not to be THAT person, but Karen wasn’t Grace’s “obnoxious, rich, alcoholic boss” she was the assistant.

  • Alicia Westberry

    I assume, if nothing of significance has changed in the reboot, it will be a matter of. ‘if it’s not broken, don’t fix it.” What annoys me is that there seems to be no originality anymore. Television executives need to turn down all these reboots, game shows, and reality shows in favor of original programming.