Wednesday, September 27, 2017

NBC Fall Pilot Review: Will & Grace - Premieres Thursday (Sept. 28); Freeform Orders Pretty Little Liars Spin-off Pilot

Will & Grace

Will & Grace - Thursdays at 9:00PM on NBC
Premieres Thursday, September 28, 2017 at 9:00PM ET/PT


by Skees

Will, Grace, Jack, and (unfortunately) Karen are all back together again this fall after a hiatus of over a decade on Will & Grace. It's the same cast and characters that fans got to love in the original 1998-2006 run of the series, only now they're back together again in 2017. While the revival series was planned to be a "limited run," it has already been renewed for a second (or tenth depending upon how you look at things) season, and the series really does just pick up where the eighth season of the original did, for the most part.

Cast Details:

Eric McCormack as Will Truman
Debra Messing as Grace Adler
Megan Mullally as Karen Walker
Sean Hayes as Jack McFarland

It goes without saying that all of the four cast members are best known for playing these exact same roles in the original run of Will & Grace, but they've also been doing other projects since then, and some have been known for other projects before the original series.

Eric McCormack (Will) started his career with minor guest roles in series like Silk Stalkings and The Commish before starring in Lonesome Dove: The Series. Since 2006, he has appeared in series such as Trust Me and Perception. Currently, he also stars in the Netflix series Travelers.

Debra Messing (Grace) starred in the ABC series Ned and Stacey just before Will & Grace began. Since 2006, she has starred in two less successful NBC series, Smash and The Mysteries of Laura.

Megan Mullally (Karen) briefly had her own talk show after the original series, but it didn't last long. However, she did find success in guest roles, most prominently as Tammy II on Parks and Recreation. She has also had guest roles in series such as 30 Rock and Bob's Burgers.

Sean Hayes (Jack) has appeared in series such as Sean Saves the World and The Millers, but it seems that neither was a good fit for him as Will & Grace was. However, he has been the man behind a successful production company, Hazy Mills, which has produced Grimm, Hot in Cleveland, and Hollywood Game Night.

Pilot Plot:

We have watched the first four episodes for review (the first two of which will air this week), and the plots of them are as follows.

"Eleven Years Later" (Airs September 28 at 9:00PM ET)

We haven't seen Will, Grace, Karen, and Jack for over a decade and things have changed... well not exactly. Will and Grace are about to be living together again, and Karen and Jack are just as obnoxious as always. Meanwhile, politics becomes the topic of the day when Karen may be decorating the Oval Office for President Trump and Will has his eyes on a politician.

"Who's Your Daddy?" (Airs October 5 at 9:00PM ET)

What is an "acceptable" age difference in a couple? Will's latest date (who is only 23 years old) will test that out in this episode, where things get a little awkward when Will talks about a breakup he had in 1994... the year his date was born.

"Emergency Contact" (Airs October 12 at 9:00PM ET)

Grace is in the hospital and is put under sedation, where her emergency contact needs to be contacted. Naturally, that should be Will, but it seems that her ex-husband Leo (Harry Connick Jr.) was left as her emergency contact since Karen was charged with changing that. But can this emergency contact help them rekindle what they lost?

Analysis:

Obviously, our "pilot" review for this series is the most unique one that we've ever done, since (at least as far as I can remember) it is the first time we've ever had a situation where we've reviewed a pilot for a series that is effectively just picking up where the original left off. Sure, we had series like The Odd Couple, but it was a reboot with a new cast. This is something that we haven't seen on TV in a long time, in the vein of when Family Guy returned to Fox after being canceled for a few years, and it is much more like "season nine" of the original series than "season one" of a newly reimagined series. In fact, there doesn't even seem to be a clear consensus on whether this is just a new season of an old series or the first season of a new series. Most online sources seem to be going with "new season of an old series." If this is successful, we may be seeing more of this type of thing. We already have Roseanne returning to ABC later this season as a "limited series," but this was originally envisioned to be "limited" too, yet it has already been renewed for a second season.

The feel of this show, though, is very odd. But that isn't necessarily a bad thing. It has the feeling of that late 90s sitcom that aired on NBC back when NBC was the network to be in the world of sitcoms, when Friends-mania was taking over the network. What's interesting about the original series is that it was airing on NBC in that Friends era, and always living in the shadow of Friends. Friends even served as a lead-in for the original series. And once it lost that lead-in, people stopped caring about Will & Grace. It did continue on for two more seasons afterward, but by that time, it was more or less just floating on while NBC was focused on their future of single camera sitcoms (thanks to The Office).

There really isn't a lot to say about this series. It's Will & Grace, and it's the Will & Grace that fans (and probably even some new fans) have come to love in the original eight year run. It's really easy to be skeptical when a series has a reboot, reunion, or anything along those lines. Often they'll have very forced scripts to explain why they're all together again, they'll have missing key characters (and come up with a really stupid explanation of why that character is gone), they'll have new producers and writers that don't understand or even care to understand why fans liked the original series, and even kids that have grown up can ruin some of the original charm. None of that happens with this series. It's pretty much like a new season of an old show, that is able to do things it couldn't have done when it last aired in 2006. And if people don't recognize that things have changed, then they must have been in a coma for over a decade.

Obviously, the show still retains a lot of the LGBT themes. After all, what else would it be without those? A lot of things have changed since 2006 in terms of the LGBT community. For example, in 2004, one of the most "radical" presidential candidates (who lost his primary) was suggesting allowing gay couples to have civil unions to guarantee many rights associated with marriage, but not marriage because that's a step too far. And people couldn't believe somebody was saying something so radical, they thought civil unions were far fetched. In 2017, same-sex marriage is legal in all 50 states, and a lot of people support it or just don't care one way or the other. Even just considering how those who are not part of the LGBT community perceive those in the LGBT community has changed significantly from 2006 to 2017. Consider this: this show debuted in 1998, just months after ABC canceled the once popular sitcom Ellen following a very challenging final season. Ellen (both in real life as well as the character) had come out as a lesbian in the fourth season of that series, and it resulted in a fifth season that people accused of pushing a "gay agenda," and ABC even started airing "parental advisories" before each episode to warn parents of "gay content." Concerned mothers all over the country were in panic that there was a sitcom on broadcast television that had a lesbian character as the star. Now, in 2017, those same concerned parents are watching and loving the talk show hosted by that same woman, which has aired for 15 seasons. So, to be clear, things have changed, and Will & Grace is returning at a time when the perception of it will likely be different, specifically while it may have originally been perceived as a sitcom for the LGBT community in 1998, it can be seen more as a regular sitcom that includes LGBT characters in 2017. That makes a huge difference.

Yet at the same time, while the anti-LGBT attitudes died down over a period of several years, there has also been some backlash against all of the LGBT (and other groups) progress in recent years. Some people have been sitting in silence for years while all of the progress has been made, then in the past few years, those people have learned how to use Facebook and they head to the comments sections of any given news article that talks about these issues. A lot of people have learned that not everybody is on the same page, no matter what we think. So, while a lot of those people probably won't be as interested in this series, the fact that they exist still makes this series all the more topical, perhaps even more so. That's something that is brought up in the very first episode of the series, where we learn that (not surprisingly) Karen is a huge Donald Trump supporter and invites Grace to the Oval Office for a potential opportunity to redecorate it, since the president described it as a "dump" (both in real life and the series, so they're writing in topical themes).

The series isn't purely political, though (neither was the original), and it backs away from those themes in the other two of the first three episodes. The second episode, for example, deals with the issues of dating much younger people (it's interesting to point out that Will's date in this episode is said to have been born in 1994, which means he would have been four years old when the original series debuted) as well as a B-plot that borrows a storyline of being stuck in a shower from a classic episode of The Lucy Show. It makes for a solid standard sitcom plot. But don't expect the series to be completely devoid of politics, as Michelle Obama is set to appear in one of the episodes (we're not sure when, but it certainly wasn't one of the first three that were available for review).

One nice thing about this series, of course, is that you know exactly what you're getting into before you watch it, especially if you've seen the original series. The pilot takes off running without confusion over who the characters are and why they exist. We don't need boring, forced, and slow-paced introductions. It is already built in after 194 episodes of the original series. Ultimately, the bottom line is, this show just picks up where it left off, but it isn't "for better or worse," it's almost exclusively "for better." It is important to point out one thing, though: while this series mostly picks up where the series left off, pretty much all of the events of the final episode are "forgotten" in this new series, because things happened in that final episode that would make picking things up where they truly left off almost impossible for this series.


Conclusion:

Whether or not this series will be a success will depend upon the fans. It's already got a fanbase that was built during the original run, and it has gained a lot of new fans over the years as well. So, will the fans be returning to watch or not? It's hard to tell, but based upon the first three episodes, I actually found myself much more interested in the series now than I did originally. So there may very well be this third group of people who've never really watched it before (I have seen probably less than 10 episodes myself, so I think I can count myself among those) who'll be a fan of this new series. I certainly don't want to see any network building a sitcom lineup that depends solely upon new seasons of series that were canceled years ago, and I think it would irritate fans to see that. But for this series, perhaps the time is right to reboot it and perhaps in 2017, it is more "ready" for TV than it was in 1998. 

Final Numbers (out of 5 stars):

Watchability: 4/5
Funniness: 4/5
Overall: 4/5

Discuss the show after you watch it on Thursday, September 28, 2017 at 9:00PM ET/PT on our message board.

Related Links:


  • NBC.com Official Site
  • TV.com
  • epguides.com
  • Internet Movie Database
  • Wikipedia
  • Will & Grace Photo Gallery

    Preview:





  • Pretty Little Liars: The Perfectionisists

    Freeform, Disney's young adult television and streaming network, has ordered a new drama pilot, Pretty Little Liars: The Perfectionists, from Warner Horizon Scripted Television. Pretty Little Liars: The Perfectionists, is based on the popular book series The Perfectionists, written by Sara Shepard, who also penned the No. 1 New York Times bestselling book series Pretty Little Liars. Everything about the town of Beacon Heights seems perfect, from their top-tier college to their overachieving residents. But nothing in Beacon Heights is as it appears to be. The stress of needing to be perfect leads to the town's first murder. Behind every Perfectionist is a secret, a lie and a needed alibi. Pretty Little Liars: The Perfectionists is produced by Alloy Entertainment and Long Lake Media in association with Warner Horizon Scripted Television. I. Marlene King wrote the pilot and serves as executive producer with Leslie Morgenstein and Gina Girolamo.

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