Will & Grace has been back for six episodes now, and in some ways, it’s like the NBC sitcom’s 11-year hiatus never happened. They say the mark of true friendship is being able to reunite after a long separation and pick up right where you left off. It’s also the mark of great comedy ensembles: The connection between Will & Grace’s four Emmy-winning leads and the characters they play is as tight as it was in 2006.
So are the qualities and quirks that made us love them in the first place. Will Truman (Eric McCormack) hasn’t lost his slightly awkward charm. Grace Adler (Debra Messing) is still endearingly self-centered. The fabulousness of Karen Walker (Megan Mullally) is undiminished. And Jack McFarland (Sean Hayes) remains, well, just Jack. Don’t ever change, guys.
The comedy is as razor sharp as before, too, but its still-the-sameness can cut both ways. The familiarity of the gay humor sometimes feels as off as Grace’s taste in fashion. (Really, Grace? Peekaboo sleeves?) In this sense, the show’s revival hasn’t quite caught up with the times yet. Being gay is so different now than it was 11 years ago, but that hasn’t always been reflected in the 2017 version of Will & Grace.
Sure there was one cursory Grindr mention and a Caitlyn Jenner joke, and Will got to give his first date of the ninth season more than a quick peck on the lips. Some of the gay elements, though, have seemed so yesterday, to quote the title of a Hillary Duff single from the first Will & Grace era.
Judging from Will’s and Jack’s score cards so far, you’d think prime-time TV was still ruled by the morality police. But I suppose one shouldn’t expect two middle-aged sitcom characters to get as much onscreen action as twentysomething Jamal on Empire. As you were, boys.
Being gay in 2017 isn’t just about getting it on anyway. During the first six of season nine’s 16 episodes, there were at least six LGBTQ references and/or situations that made me feel like it was 1998-to-2006 all over again. Despite the Caitlyn Jenner name-drop, we’ve so far seen no real acknowledgement of the growing trans community, sexual and gender fluidity, or gay marriage, which, was but a seemingly impossible dream when the show left the air.
As we wait for the show’s special Christmas episode to air on December 5, let’s review some of the anachronistic moments so far...
1. Will plays “Borderline” while getting date-ready for 23-year-old Blake. “Borderline”? Seriously? No, Gen X-er still stuck in Madonna’s past would play “Borderline” to set the date mood. It’s not even one of her signature hits, and it went Top 10 before we were old enough to go out. “Vogue” would be a much more likely prepping and primping soundtrack – or even a Madonna hit from around when Will & Grace was first on the air, like “Hung Up.”
A middle-aged guy still stuck in Madonna’s past would have been more likely to play “Borderline” while getting date-ready for Will during seasons one through eight. But he probably would have had “Holiday” on repeat.
2. Blake keeps making age-related cracks about Will. Post-millennials who go for older men don’t make such a big deal about it – at least not to our faces. When Blake compared Will to an anchorman, Will took it as a compliment, but I interpreted it as “You’re cute but kind of dated.” No-one under 30 gets their news from TV anymore! (If the Behind the Music/Unsolved Mysteries/E! True Hollywood Story bit wasn’t an age dig, too, the writers really need to update their TV culture references.)
But take it from someone who has dated his share of younger men: “Daddies” are in. When a horny twentysomething thinks you’re hot, he doesn’t care how old you are, and he certainly won’t keep commenting on it. The people who make the biggest deal about May-December romance are typically the lions in winter.
3. Will makes a romantic first-date dinner for Ben. Speaking of romance, it’s sort of dead-ish in gay 2017. Has it ever even been a thing to cook for a first date? Memo to Will: Skip the fancy china and expensive wine. Just go straight to dessert.
Yes, the dinner thing is very old-school Will, but has he been dating under a rock for the past decade? A 22-year-old recently messaged me on Grindr, and during the course of our conversation, he told me most guys his age cringe at the word “date” because it implies candlelight and soft music.
Of course, I already knew that. Guys in their forties and early fifties aren’t out of touch when it comes to contemporary mating ways. We’re part of the Grindr generation, too. A man who has been dating since before Jimmy Carter’s administration would be more likely to dim all the living-room lights after the appetizers.
4. Jack’s grandson is gaga for Lady Gaga. I was pleasantly surprised when Jack’s grandson showed up in episode four, all cherubic, adorable, and gay, but his taste in pop divas needs an update. Gays aren’t obsessed with Lady Gaga like they were circa 2008 to 2011. I can’t imagine that gay pre-tweens in Texas have Born This Way on repeat in 2017. They’re more likely to be getting in formation with Beyonce or downloading Taylor Swift’s Reputation. Has Jack even acknowledged the very existence of Tay-Tay and her chequered celebrity-dating past?
5. A young, cute hotelier bribes Grace for one night with Will. In episode five, Grace was up for a lucrative interior-designing gig with a handsome thirtysomething hotel exec who demanded a date with Will, presumably in exchange for a contract. Hmm... The show rolled out a near-identical twist during its previous run, only the horny alpha male was an older guy played by the late Miguel Ferrer (RIP).
Please. In the age of Grindr, Scruff, and swiping right, no young, out “power gay” (Will’s words!) has to resort to such subterfuge to get a date with a guy he first spots on a phone, especially not in New York City.
6. Britney Spears is a punchline again. “I’m more confused than Britney onstage in Vegas,” Jack announced in the most recent episode. Oh, Jack. Bashing Britney is so passe. (And so is cracking on your “dear friend” Amanda Bynes, by the way.) I’m totally convinced that a gay in his forties would go to see Britney Spears in Las Vegas, but off-the-rails Britney pretty much left the building around the release of Circus in 2008.
That was two years after she made a cameo on Will & Grace during its final season as Peg, a self-described “hardcore lesbian” who was “into leather play, butch white girls, skunkin’, pullin’ the blinds, and poodle balling.” Let’s pray to the LGBTQ gods that we’ve seen the last of her.