“Will and Grace” is returning to NBC, and that’s exciting news to fans of the landmark sitcom. But while the promise of 10 episodes set to debut during the 2017-2018 has those of us with fond memories of the classic comedy looking forward to more… we have some questions.
“The Finale,” the final two-part episode of Season 8, was produced in an era when the concept of revivals was a relatively rare one. In 2006, when “Will & Grace” ended, the idea that “Twin Peaks” would come back for a new season would have been considered crazy. Thus, the last “Will & Grace” episode was clearly designed to serve as that rarest of things: A true ending.
Here are some important things to remember from the series finale — or, what we’ll now call the Season 8 finale:
- Karen (Megan Mullaly) is broke. After seasons of exemplifying life in the lap of luxury, the season finale revealed that her husband’s fortune was essentially borrowed, and she had no cash.
- Jack (Sean Hayes) is now the rich one. That’s thanks to his decision to reluctantly date Beverley Leslie (Leslie Jordan), which leads to him inheriting his fortune after Beverly’s accidental and untimely death — he then becomes the one to support Karen, after years of the reverse being true.
- Grace (Debra Messing) has a kid! After hooking up earlier in Season 8 with ex-husband Leo (Harry Connick Jr.), Grace gets pregnant, and she and Leo ultimately reunite, raising baby Lila together.
- So does Will (Eric McCormack)! In the series finale, we see him and partner Vince D’Angelo (Bobby Cannavale) raising a baby boy named Ben.
- Oh, and the finale takes us decades into the future. Through a number of flashforwards, we see Will and Grace with their children as toddlers. And they then apparently drifted apart, to the level where, as college freshman, Lilah and Ben meet seemingly for the first time. Later, they get married, and Will and Grace are friends again, doing shots down at the bar with Karen and Jack.
Of course, your ability to know any of that is limited to poor quality YouTube bootlegs, Wikipedia articles and DVD box sets. At this moment, it’s not possible to watch “Will and Grace” online at all — it’s not even available for purchase on iTunes or Amazon VOD. The series is currently airing on We TV in syndication, and can be purchased on DVD (Amazon pricing ranges from $12.99 to $29.99 a season). But unlike other recently revived shows, like “The X-Files,” “Prison Break” and “Gilmore Girls,” a generation of viewers accustomed to the ease of streaming services has little engagement with the series.
NBC had no comment at press time regarding plans to make the show available digitally in some fashion.
As creators Max Mutchnick and David Kohan get back to work on new episodes, the question lingers: How much “Will & Grace” will acknowledge the events of “The Finale”? Will it stay in line with the timeline of the show and take place 11 years after the events of the ender? Will it include Will and Grace’s new life partners and children? (Which is more than possible! Harry Connick Jr.’s talk show is distributed by Universal, which means he’s already a part of the NBC family, and Bobby Cannavale is no longer the property of HBO’s “Vinyl.”) Or will it just completely disregard all previously established continuity?
We could perhaps take a clue from “Vote Honey,” the September 2016 reunion that brought the cast back together for a special 10-minute short film. But the short pays no attention to continuity whatsoever, as it was a pre-election “Go vote!” PSA and thus its energies aren’t directed towards in-depth plotting.
Here’s the intriguing issue this raises: If there’s no way for a young modern audience to discover or rediscover the original series, does continuity matter at all? (Consider this the 2017 media version of the classic “if a tree falls in the forest” thought experiment.) Theoretically, new fans won’t necessarily want to deal with eight seasons of backstory they have no way of accessing, and returning fans could be content with a return to the original format: Will and Grace, best friends, swapping zingers with their wacky friends Jack and Karen.
It’s a half-decent bet that in the next several months, “Will and Grace” will make its streaming debut. But in the meantime, we’re left with grainy YouTube clips and even fuzzier memories when it comes to the Emmy-winning favorite — and lots of questions as to what might be coming in the future.