Finally, fans have gotten their wish and a late 90s/early aughts Must-See TV show is getting a reboot. No, it’s not Friends. Or Seinfeld.
It’s Will & Grace.
We were asking for this? According to everyone involved, yes. The cast reunited for an election video in 2016 and it was so popular that NBC worked to bring it back.
Even with a pair of 90s goggles, I don’t know how urgent this reboot is. The show was popular, yes, and still runs in syndication. It hasn’t aged that badly (though some of the jokes, particularly the ones centering around the f-word, would not make it to air today); like Friends and Seinfeld, it’s certainly of its time. Scrolling through reruns, it’s clear the show relied heavily on cameos (Madonna, Patti LuPone, Cher, Sharon Stone, Janet Jackson, Chita Rivera, Debbie Reynolds, Lily Tomlin, Sandra Bernhard and Bebe Neuwirth) to give it life.
I imagine that when the show ended, the idea of a reboot wasn’t a remote possibility because the finale revealed Will and Grace’s estrangement. They had a huge fight and reconciled years later when their children moved into the same dorm. So where will this series land in the timeline?
In the 5-minute trailer, it appears that there is no flashback or forward and they are living in the present time. What happened to their children and spouses? Will this be a running joke or explained as a dream or just ignored? (Doubt it’s the latter – the writers are too smart to let the timeline hang over the reboot.) The trickiness with every nostalgia act is that it must retain the same essence (comedic rhythm and character ticks) the audience loved, but to make it watchable beyond the first hour it has to show some growth, otherwise we could just turn to reruns.
Karen and Jack are so familiar that you can see the jokes coming from a mile away. I imagine that in the reboot, Jack will definitely be on Grindr and Karen will discover vaping. Over 12 episodes, if we don’t see growth, if as Will sings in the trailer, “nobody’s changed”, what’s the point? Do I really need to watch Grace call Will queer (as she does in the trailer) for 12 episodes? Does Will & Grace have anything to say that we haven’t heard from them before?
Will & Grace is also entering a completely changed TV landscape – network TV is no longer the default, lead-ins don’t matter as much, and NBC is not the gold standard of comedy. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Black-ish, Fresh Off the Boat, Master of None, Broad City, Veep… these shows don’t run concurrently, but they are always available. In a perfect world we would watch everything, but in the real world we probably miss more than we catch. With half hour to spare, will the audience still want Will Truman, or will they check in with Bow or Selina Meyer or Dev.
I don’t mean to be too hard on this idea because I do think there’s a lot of sincerity here. This is a supremely talented cast that is coming back to work simply for the thrill of it. This doesn’t feel like a money grab or a case of people who can’t escape the identity of a hit show so they just succumb to the darkness (see: Fuller House). But it’s also a lot of pressure and a bit of a test: in a time of Peak TV, does Must-See TV still matter?