MINNEAPOLIS - The music, the laughs, the characters.
For eight years, “Will and Grace” anchored ‘Must See TV’ on NBC – as millions of viewers tuned into Will, Grace, Jack, and Karen as they lit up television screens across America every Thursday night.
Allowing them into our living rooms can create a social change, “people have a very personal relationship with their favorite sitcom shows their favorite sitcom characters, people eat dinner in front of their tv’s watching their sitcoms. That can make a difference on a smaller everyday scale even if it’s not this big transformative event it can change people’s minds and educate them and help them feel comfortable about a person or a group or an identity they were less familiar with,” says Maggie Hennefeld, the Assistant Professor of Cultural Studies at the University of Minnesota.
Eric McCormick, who plays Will Truman in the show ‘Will & Grace’, agrees “I think a lot of Americans perhaps didn’t know a lot of gay people where they lived and so they got to meet a wide variety of gay men and women over the course of 8 years and I think it made it ok, and that’s the most political thing we could do. We didn’t march, we didn’t shout we just were funny and we slipped into your living room.”
The notion of using TV as a platform to comment on society is not a new one. In fact, Hennefeld explains, "maybe some of the fiercest social satires on television were happening back in the 1970s. Watergate, the Nixon era, the Vietnam War and a lot of the social changes started by the 60s counter culture. Some of the Norman Lear sitcoms are very relevant shows like All in the Family, Maud, Sanford and Son and The Jeffersons."
The Emmy award winning sitcom arguably opened the doors for the wide range of representation seen on television today like “Orange is the New Black”, “Transparent”, and “Girls”.
Sean Hayes, who portrays Jack McFarland on the show insists, “it did break a lot of ground back then by just people being themselves and I think the audience witnessing gay people doing the same things going through the same emotional tribulations and financial tribulations and so tribulations as everybody else really normalized humans as one race and not just all these divisions of culture and sexual orientation.”
Maggie Hennefeld wonders how the comedy will continue it’s signature satire, “I’ll be curious to see where the reboot goes in terms of trans characters and queer men and women beyond the flamboyant stereotype of Jack.”
It’s a question the close knit cast welcomes,”so now we’ve conquered a lot of those things but the fight is so far from over” says Hayes.
Debra Messing, aka 'Grace Adler' on the show, says “there’s always more ground to break I like to say that when we were on 11 years ago we addressed LGB we got as far as B and I would like to finish the alphabet. Now we have conversations about gender identity and sexual fluidity and these are conversations that are happening in our country right now. Of course we want to be true “Will & Grace” and we always dealt with what was happening in the moment in a sort of provocative and sassy way I hope we will be true to our self and I think we will be.”