Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Will & Grace swings and misses on at least 4 fronts

Photos: Chris Haston/NBC
Photos: Chris Haston/NBC
TV ReviewsAll of our TV reviews in one convenient place.

Man, I was really hopeful after last week’s great Will & Grace, but this week has thrown this whole revamp for a loop. It was like four mostly unrelated plots that must have been scraped up from the bottom of the barrel from the last go-around. Unless they were just recycled straightaway: Grace first tried to pimp Will out for a job way back in season number one, to Miguel Ferrer in “Saving Grace.” It probably wasn’t funny then, either.

It’s the tricky party of a revamp: These characters are so beloved, but in this episode, they barely even interact. Nostalgia only goes so far. Jack’s plotline was really just about splitting a lottery ticker? Karen’s just swapping cutdowns with (the delightful, granted) Beverly Leslie (Leslie Jordan)? How in the world do you waste a goddamn gem like Max Greenfield, whose role is basically just that of a horny mogul?

Last week’s episode worked because it had a distinct message, with some nice moments from Will and Jack. Still, the sexual harassment subplot landed painfully, and Grace’s attempt to push Will onto Eli here is similar. Grace saying, “It’s different for a woman!” isn’t funny (Tell that to Terry Crews). These episodes are getting turned around quickly (already with the Weinstein joke), so the show has to know how distasteful this is. There’s no way Grace would actually get mad at Will for not putting out so that she can get the job.

Max Greenfield brought nothing to the table, but he really wasn’t given anything to work with. Eli Wolf is some sort of smashing hotelier success, even though all we see of him is that he’s permanently on the prowl. “What’s your kink?” What was that whole conversation? Who talks like that? This is the first W&G episode written by John Quaintance and Suzanne Martin, so apparently, there are some kinks to work out. But W&G vet James Burrows is directing all of these episodes, so we could have hoped that there was a surer hand here.

All of these ridiculous machinations (dumb helicopter pad scene all for the bushy hair non-payoff?) are meant to ensure that Will is going to quit his well-paying, long-standing lawyer job to come work with Grace. In typical sitcom fashion, am predicting this leads to strife in their relationship (where they really will never be able to get away from each other), leading to Will quitting to save their friendship. Or something.

This new version of W&G has been doing well, ratings-wise, and a lot of tweets and comments expound on the fact that everyone is so happy to see these characters back again. Especially in these troubling times, what a relief to turn on the (old-fashioned) TV and see familiar faces and just laugh for a half-hour! That’s all well and good. But the worst thing we could see is these characters reduced to shells of their former, funny selves (like Debra Messing’s bizarre line deliveries about gay men not making a big deal about sex). Why bring everyone back and then have them absolutely scatter, as in the many disjointed plots this week? Even though the original version dragged on a bit long and got bogged down with too many stunt-cast guest stars at the end, the original Will & Grace had a certain high bar of witty sophistication, bolstered by occasional slapstick humor. Best of all, it was frequently funny. These creators knew that going in. Ten episodes that approximate or even bring to mind those heights doesn’t seem like a lot to ask, but this definitely isn’t one of them.


Stray observations

  • Best line of the episode: “What’s gay, beautiful, and just got rich for doing nothing?” “Jared Kushner?”
  • This week in “Do I hate Grace’s outfit as much as Karen would?”: Absolutely. It looked like a tablecloth from a Ponderosa restaurant. The blue dress with the scrunchies around the arms wasn’t any better, though.
  • I like when Karen laughs at her own jokes.
  • That’s Hamilton star Tony Ramos as thankless assistant Tony, whose main job seems to be walking in and out of rooms. He’ll also be playing Spike Lee’s old role of Mars Blackmon in the upcoming Netflix series She’s Gotta Have It, so hopefully he’ll fare better there. Or at least get more to do.
  • So if Grace got this job, does that mean that we will see future appearances of Max Greenfield as Eli? Before this episode I would have thought he’d be a great fit for this show, but now for his sake, I hope not.
  • Someone posted this on Twitter, and I agree: Nick Offerman should definitely get that Karen jacket.
  • So, according to the NBC website, there is a missing episode four. I too have been wondering about the timing here, since Karen’s throwing-paper-towels Trump joke last week was pretty timely (even if not that funny). The first Weinstein revelation was (unbelievably) only two weeks ago, so maybe they are moving things up to better reflect current events? Or maybe it was another really sucky episode?
  • Next week: The show addresses the lack of Rosario.