I'm sad to see this show go, but I think most would agree it was time.
Will & Grace has had a fantastic eight-year run, and made a difference for probably being the first prominent network sitcom with major gay characters. It has continuously performed very well in the Nielsen ratings, and is a testament to how well most of America received the show. It's pretty safe to say not just gay men watched the show--the ratings were always good enough to prove that the show was lovingly embraced by everyone. It ushered in an era of gay-themed and friendly shows, creating a long lasting and overdue mini-revolution.
And really, the success of this show is due to many factors. I remember watching the very first debut premiere episode back in the Fall of 1998, and being captivated by its tremendously sharp and witty writing. The jokes are very smart, quick, and genuinely very funny. It took a good three episodes to really develop all the characters as we know them today, but once the show took off, it did just that: take off. The director, the masterful James Burrows (a sitcom veteran with shows such as Cheers and Frasier under his belt) has done an outstanding job, as has of course the phenomenal team of writers.
The cast is nothing short of brilliant, and it is the actors who will forever benefit from the success of the program, for they were relative unknowns when the show first began. To see these actors play off each other, as one truly polished theater group is astounding:
-Eric McCormack playing the central character Will Truman. An adorable handsome lawyer who is in love with his best friend Grace, but is too gay to enjoy sex with her. We love Will because he is seemingly perfect, yet obviously flawed and man enough to always admit it.
-The lovable pretty and somewhat selfish Debra Messing as interior designer Grace Adler. A woman who is hopelessly into her best gay friend Will, who has one failed heterosexual relationship after another, is constantly worried about her body image, is gregarious, loves to party, and is the most emotionally sensitive of the whole group.
-Achingly annoying but good-hearted Sean Hayes as Jack McFarland. Many criticized this character at first for being too stereotypically gay, but who could resist laughing at Jack and his many many flaws? Horribly selfish, lazy, confused, lost, promiscuous, without goals, but caring in the end. Will's best gay male friend, and haven't we all had one of these boys in our lives? I know I have, and still do.
-The incomparable and amazing Megan Mullally as the high-pitched drugged out dipsomaniac affluent Karen Walker. She is probably every gay man's favorite character: a woman married into wealth, with a grossly obese husband Stan, who works for Grace just because she needs "something to do", insulting to her maids (especially the hilarious Salvadoran Rosario), bitterly cynical, sarcastic, caustic, rude, obnoxious, egotistical, but highly highly vulnerable and good-natured underneath the very heavy exterior/facade. The best lines always went to her, and to watch her and Sean Hayes in scenes together is one of the main reasons why the show became such an enormous hit. Many claimed, why call it Will & Grace, when it's really The Jack and Karen Show! Almost true, but not quite.
The rest of the supporting cast was always in top shape and many high profile celebrities made cameos or even became regular "regulars" of the show, including: Debbie Reynolds, Eileen Brennan, Harry Connick Jr., Woody Harrelson, Gene Wilder, the late great Gregory Hines, Sandra Bernhard, Rosie O'Donnell, Matt Damon, Michael Douglas, Elton John, Madonna, and countless others.
The show was justly rewarded with many Emmy Awards, and the entire main cast of four won their awards and deservedly so.
It will live forever in reruns and on the DVD box sets of course. The last truly great situation comedy of the late nineties, taking place at the very end of the buoyant open-minded Clinton administration when everything seemed possible, when America still had not suffered 9/11--the show itself shined best during its first four seasons, and kinda lost it thereafter, but nonetheless still had some juice from time to time.
At the risk of sounding divisive, there were many fans of that awful Friends show during the same era, but it is Will & Grace that I identified with, that I laughed at, that I enjoyed.
And the rest, is TV history...
*The next-to-last episode of 'Will & Grace' airs this Thursday, May 11 at 8p.m. on NBC.
*The special two-hour finale airs next Thursday, May 18 at 8p.m. on NBC.