‘Will & Grace’ Revival Promises to Make America Gay Again

Will & Grace” brought a gay new time to network TV. Ellen DeGeneres’s Ellen Morgan had only come out a year earlier on the “The Puppy Episode” of “Ellen” when “Will & Grace” debuted in 1998. Will (Eric McCormack) and Grace (Debra Messing) introduced prime time to their first GBF. The pair could never hook up, so the sexual tension of TV chemistries like Fox Mulder and Dana Sculley’s first kiss on “The X-Files” would never get relief.

It’s been 11 years since “Will & Grace” ended and a lot has happened. Not so much, though, that Karen (Megan Mullally) can’t fill the audience in on every plot hole with a cringingly purposeful tirade in the opening scene of “11 Years Later.” The premiere episode begins, not where the series ended, but squarely in Donald Trump’s America, where everyone is a sellout, though not always for money.

Will, a fairly successful New York City lawyer, is writing an angry letter to a congressman who opposes the environment, the entire thing. Will wants to get his dander up, not necessarily because he believes he will make a difference to global warming, but because the politician is hot. Something Jack (Sean Hayes) attests to with such vehemence the pair head off Washington, as does Grace, another fierce liberal ready to toss off her ideals for a chance to decorate the Oval Office for Karen’s old friend Donald.

Will and Grace are living together again. This is partially because Grace got divorced in the interim and a little bit because the formula works. You don’t mess with successful, tried and true comedy and “Will and Grace,” though mainly Grace, provides an evening of spit-takes. Messing is not shy about physical comedy, and while McCormack is more comfortable with verbal combat, he can hold his own in a pillow fight. The pacing remains impeccable, if a little forced in the opening episode. But the writers ensure that every line is either a gag or a setup.

They keep up the pace until the last three minutes when the audience gets its heavy moment. Grace is still the same old Grace, and she makes life a living hell for Will, much the same way Lucy made Ricky pull at his hair on “I Love Lucy.” The very special moment is over almost as soon as it begins, because there’s nothing like a GBF to break up the treacle.

Grace, of course, redeems herself in the end. She reels in Karen and hides a subliminal message in a baseball cap she believe might have the power to make America gay again.

The cast gets more comfortable in their old clothes as the season progresses, but not in their older faces, Will and Jack are both becoming daddy figures in the club scene, where the younger gay generation has no sense of the struggles of those who came before. Will’s date can’t tell Stonewall from Stonehenge. Grace and Karen resolve their trust issues over a nice hot shower. The episode is also filled with expert physical humor, especially from Jack, who has a problem keeping his shape in form.

By the third episode, “Will and Grace” takes on an episode’s worth of weighty material, but they keep it very light. They maintain the pace of humor. One high point being Jack’s “Platinum Gay” explanation, which is a gay man who not only has never had sex with a woman, but also was delivered through C-section, hence never experiencing vagina. Grace’s ex-husband Leo (Harry Connick, Jr.) puts in an appearance because he is still listed as her “Emergency Contact,” the episode’s title.

“Will & Grace” lands roughly where it left off once the show recaptures the easier rhythms. They remain resolutely silly with only mild dips into winking irreverence.

Will & Grace” returns Sept. 28 and airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET on NBC.