On this date in 1998, Will & Grace debuted on NBC.
The first network comedy created with a gay lead character, Will & Grace took the mantle from Ellen, the ABC sitcom which had broadcast its final episode just months earlier. Ellen DeGeneres' title character Ellen Morgan had famously come out the year before, in 1997's codenamed "The Puppy Episode," and spent her fifth and final season on the air in a midlife search for lesbian love and acceptance. Now, in the fall of 1998, the road had been paved through primetime for two new iconic gay regular characters: Will Truman, a somewhat conservative gay lawyer, and Jack McFarland, his much more flamboyant actor friend and confidant.
Over the course of its eight seasons, Will & Grace would go on to win 16 Emmys, including awards for each of its four lead actors -- a feat previously accomplished only by All In the Family and The Golden Girls. Back in July, I attended a panel at the Television Critics Association conference in Los Angeles for W&G star Debra Messing's new series The Starter Wife, which premieres on the USA Network on Friday, October 10. Is there any hope, I asked her, for a Will-and-Grace-and-Jack-and-Karen reunion? "I
would be game," Messing said. But, she noted, "it's a little tricky because the finale
played with time, and they showed what happened 25 years
ahead. So it's a little difficult to see how that
would be possible."
When I interviewed her for my book, Will & Grace: Fabulously Uncensored (see photo below), I remembered Messing rhapsodizing about how much she misses living in New York City. It sounded at the time like she planned to head back East the moment Will & Grace took its final curtain call. But The Starter Wife miniseries was shot in Australia, and now the series version will be headquartered in L.A. So, I asked her, what happened?
"You know, life unfolds the way it's going to unfold. This was here, and so [New York] will just be postponed for a little bit," the actress explained. "I do still want to get back on stage, and I can't fathom the future without envisioning spending a significant amount of time in New York, because it really does feel like my home," she added. And so while now, at the time of the tenth anniversary of this hilarious show's debut, it sounds like there may never be another gathering of Will & Grace's four groundbreaking gays and gals, at least there will probably be a time in the near future when real-life New York City will get its Grace back.
At the Barnes & Noble Union Square, New York for a signing of my book, Will & Grace: Fabulously Uncensored, September 2004.
Photo by Scott Kahn.