Will & Grace
|Will & Grace|
|Created by||David Kohan
|Directed by||James Burrows|
|Theme music composer||Jonathan Wolff|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||8|
|No. of episodes||184 (list of episodes)|
|Executive producer(s)||Max Mutchnick
|Location(s)||Stage 17, CBS Studio Center, Los Angeles|
|Running time||22 minutes|
|Production company(s)||KoMut Entertainment
Sister Entertainment (1998-2000)
3 Sisters Entertainment
|Distributor||Warner Bros. Television
MGM International Television Distribution (non US)
|Picture format||480i (4:3 SDTV) (1998–2003)
1080i (16:9 HDTV) (2004–2006)
|Audio format||Stereo (1998–2003)
Dolby Digital 5.1 (2004–2006)
|Original release||September 21, 1998– May 18, 2006|
Will & Grace is an American sitcom created by Max Mutchnick and David Kohan about the relationship between best friends Will Truman (Eric McCormack), a gay lawyer and Grace Adler (Debra Messing), a straight interior designer. It was broadcast on NBC from September 21, 1998 to May 18, 2006, for a total of eight seasons. Will & Grace, during its original run, was the most successful television series with gay principal characters. It remains popular in syndication.
Despite initial criticism for its particular portrayal of homosexual characters, it went on to become a staple of NBC's Must See TV Thursday night lineup and was met with continued critical acclaim. It was ensconced in the Nielsen top 20 for half of its network run. The show was the highest-rated sitcom among adults 18–49, from 2001 and 2005. Throughout its eight-year run, Will & Grace earned 16 Emmy Awards and 83 nominations. All four stars each received an Emmy Award throughout the series, making it one of only three sitcoms in the award's history to achieve this feat. In 2014 the Writers Guild of America placed the sitcom at number 94 in their list of the 101 Best Written TV series of all time 
Since the final episode aired, the sitcom has been credited with helping and improving public opinion of the LGBT community, with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden commenting that the show "probably did more to educate the American public" on LGBT issues "than almost anything anybody has ever done so far". In 2014 the Smithsonian Institution added an LGBT history collection to their museum which included items from Will and Grace. The curator Dwight Blocker Bowers stated that the sitcom used "comedy to familiarize a mainstream audience with gay culture" that was "daring and broke ground" in American media.
Will & Grace was filmed in front of a live studio audience (most episodes and scenes) on Tuesday nights, at Stage 17 in CBS Studio Center, a space that totals 14,000 sq ft (1,300 m2). Will and Grace's apartment is on display at the Emerson College Library, having been donated by series creator Max Mutchnick. When the set was removed in April 2014, rumours came up about a cast reunion, but the actors involved denied that such a reunion was planned. It was merely moved to Emerson's new center in Los Angeles.
A long-running legal battle between both the original executive producers and creators and NBC took place between 2003 and 2007. All seasons of the series have been released on DVD and the show has been broadcast in more than 60 countries.
- 1 Premise
- 2 Cast and characters
- 3 Production
- 4 Reception
- 5 Syndication
- 6 Lawsuit
- 7 Merchandise
- 8 Spin-offs
- 9 See also
- 10 References
- 11 External links
Will & Grace is set in New York City and focuses on the relationship between Will Truman, a gay lawyer, and his best friend Grace Adler, a Jewish woman who owns an interior design firm. Also featured are their friends Karen Walker, an alcoholic socialite, and Jack McFarland, a flamboyantly gay actor. The interplay of relationships features the trials and tribulations of dating, marriage, divorce and casual sex; as well as comical key stereotypes of gay and Jewish culture.
Cast and characters
- Eric McCormack as Will Truman: A gay man who is a successful corporate lawyer who studied at Columbia University, where he met Grace as a freshman; they have been best friends ever since. He is very particular and compulsive when it comes to certain tasks-especially when it came to cleaning and decorating. However, Will does have a very supportive and caring nature towards those close to him. Several characters commented that his relationship with Grace is more like that of a married couple than two friends.
- Debra Messing as Grace Adler: A straight interior decorator with an apparent obsession with food, who has been Will's best female friend since college. She is Jewish, but does not practice her religion thoroughly, though she does retain the stereotypical obsession with marriage. Over the seasons, her character turned shallow, selfish, vapid, greedy and self-absorbed. Despite this, she is a very defined character in the show, portraying a New York woman in search of the right man. She often plays as a counterbalance for Will's more conservative nature.
- Megan Mullally as Karen Walker: Karen "works" as Grace's assistant making "Grace Adler Designs" popular among her socialite acquaintances. She is the wife of the wealthy (but never seen) Stan Walker. Known for abusing alcohol and prescription medication she can be insensitive bordering on abusive, but is close to Grace and Jack, and throughout the show's run becomes closer to Will. Even though she's ditzy at times, Karen has shown bouts of intelligence, having a working knowledge of business/real-estate market economics, a moderate understanding of computing equipment, and a flair for interior design. She's also a certified public notary and is an aficionado of various liquors and prescription drugs. Despite this, she is often perplexed and naive to the habits of the working and middle classes.
- Sean Hayes as Jack McFarland: Will's other (and first gay) best friend since college. Jack is flamboyant, flighty, and superficial, and has been from a young age. He drifts from man to man and changes occupations often, being very fickle when comes to both. He has worked as a struggling actor, an acting teacher, back-up dancer for Jennifer Lopez and Janet Jackson, a sales associate at Banana Republic and Barney's Department Store, cater-waiter, student nurse, junior VP for Out TV, and the host of a talk show called "Jack Talk". Early on in the show he establishes a close friendship with Karen. Jack made four one man shows (called "Just Jack", "Jack 2000", Jack 2001", and "Jack 2002") to showcase his singing/dancing/acting abilities. His idol is Cher.
|Main characters||Will Truman||Grace Adler||Jack McFarland||Karen Walker|
|Husbands / Wives||Vince D'Angelo (Bobby Cannavale)||Leo Markus (Harry Connick, Jr.)||Rosario Salazar (Shelley Morrison)||Stanley Walker
Lyle Finster (John Cleese)
|Family||George Truman (Sydney Pollack)
Marilyn Truman (Blythe Danner)
Sam Truman (John Slattery / Steven Weber)
Paul Truman (Jon Tenney)
|Bobbi Adler (Debbie Reynolds)
Marvin Adler (Alan Arkin)
Janet Adler (Geena Davis)
Joyce Adler (Sara Rue)
Eleanor Markus (Judith Ivey)
|Judith McFarland (Veronica Cartwright)
Elliot (Michael Angarano)
|Lois Whitley (Suzanne Pleshette)
Gin (Bernadette Peters)
Barry (Dan Futterman)
Lorraine Finster (Minnie Driver)
Marion Finster (Tim Curry
|Ben Truman (Ben Newmark), Lila Markus (Maria Thayer)|
|Friends||Rob (Tom Gallop), Ellen (Leigh-Allyn Baker), Joe (Jerry Levine), Larry (Tim Bagley), Steve (Steve Paymer)|
|Neighbors||Val Bassett (Molly Shannon), Mr. Zamir (Marshall Manesh), Nathan (Woody Harrelson)|
|Love interests||Michael (Chris Potter)
Matthew (Patrick Dempsey)
James Hanson (Taye Diggs)
|Ben Doucette (Gregory Hines)
Danny (Tom Verica)
Josh (Corey Parker)
Nick (Edward Burns)
Tom Cassidy (Eric Stoltz)
|Stuart Lamarack (Dave Foley)
Kevin Bacon (Kevin Bacon)
|Lionel Banks (Rip Torn)
Malcolm Widmark (Alec Baldwin)
|Rivals||Val Bassett (Molly Shannon)||Beverley Leslie (Leslie Jordan)
Lorraine Finster (Minnie Driver)
Scott Woolley (Jeff Goldblum)
|Bosses||Ben Doucette (Gregory Hines)
Mr. Stein (Gene Wilder)
Margot (Lily Tomlin)
Malcolm Widmark (Alec Baldwin)
|Jamie (John Ducey)
Tim (Mark Harelik)
Dorleen (Parker Posey)
|Grace Adler (Debra Messing)|
|Employees / Subordinates||Mrs. Freeman (Jo Marie Payton)
Connie (Kari Lizer)
|Karen Walker (Megan Mullally)
Gillian (Natasha Lyonne)
|Dave (Mathew Botuchis)||Rosario Salazar (Shelley Morrison)|
|Clients||Harlin Polk (Gary Grubbs)
|Joanne (Emily Rutherfurd)
Russell (Jon Fleming)
|Co-workers||Gary (Jamie Kaler)|
|Others||Zandra Zoggin (Eileen Brennan), Tina (Lesley Ann Warren), Benji (Brian A. Setzer), Nurse Sheila (Laura Kightlinger)|
|Molly Shannon||Val Bassett|
|Debbie Reynolds||Bobbi Adler|
|Gregory Hines||Ben Doucette|
|Marshall Manesh||Mr. Zamir|
|Laura Kightlinger||Nurse Sheila|
|Sydney Pollack||George Truman|
|Lesley Ann Warren||Tina|
|Leslie Jordan||Beverley Leslie|
|Blythe Danner||Marilyn Truman|
|Charles C. Stevenson Jr.||Smitty|
|Rip Torn||Lionel Banks|
|Harry Connick, Jr.||Dr. Marvin 'Leo' Markus|
|Minnie Driver||Lorraine Finster|
|Bobby Cannavale||Vince D'Angelo|
|Alec Baldwin||Malcolm Widmark|
Creators of Will & Grace and real-life friends Max Mutchnick and David Kohan modeled the show after Mutchnick's relationship with childhood friend Janet Eisenberg, a New York voice-over casting agent. Mutchnick, who is openly gay, met Eisenberg while rehearsing a play at Temple Emanuel in Beverly Hills, California at age of 13. He was the main star of the Hebrew school musical, while she was a student in the drama department. About three years later, she introduced him to Kohan, the son of comedy writer Alan Kohan, in the drama department at Beverly Hills High School. "Max and Janet seemed to have a lovely rapport, but the romantic element confused me, and it confused them as well," Kohan later recalled. "They went out for a couple of years, then they went off to different colleges. And Max comes out of the closet, springs it on her -- and she was stunned. It was a shocking revelation for her, so I kind of functioned as a liaison between the two of them, because they both still really loved each other."
While Kohan practiced his shuttle diplomacy, he and Mutchnick began developing sitcom ideas, which prompted the pair to start writing as a duo. They eventually landed staff jobs on HBO's adult-themed sitcom Dream On and executive produced the short-lived NBC sitcom Boston Common. In 1997, they developed an ensemble comedy about six friends, two of them based on Mutchnick and Eisenberg. At the same time, Warren Littlefield, the then-president of NBC Entertainment, was seeking another relationship comedy for the network as Mad About You was going off the air. When Kohan and Mutchnick pitched their idea, which centered on three couples, one of which was a gay man living with a straight woman, Littlefield was not excited about the first two couples, but wanted to learn more about the gay and straight couple, so Mutchnick and Kohan were sent to create a pilot script centering on those two characters. While Kohan and Mutchnick elaborated on the pilot script, they spent four tense months faxing Littlefield the box office grosses from hit films with gay characters such as The Birdcage and My Best Friend's Wedding.
NBC were positive about the project, but there was still some concern that the homosexual subject matter would cause alarm. Ellen DeGeneres's sitcom Ellen which aired on ABC was canceled the year before Will & Grace premiered because ratings had plummeted after the show became "too gay". Despite the criticism ABC received for DeGeneres's coming out episode, "The Puppy Episode", "there's no question that show made it easier for Will & Grace to make it on the air," said Kohan. He added: "Will & Grace had a better shot at succeeding where Ellen failed, however, because Will has known about his homosexuality for twenty years. He's not exploring that awkward territory for the first time as Ellen did. The process of self-discovery and the pain most gay men go through is fascinating, but the average American is put off by it."
NBC went to sitcom director James Burrows to see what he thought of the homosexual subject matter and if an audience would be interested in the show. Burrows liked the idea and when he first read the script in November 1997, he decided that he wanted to direct it. Burrows said, "I knew that the boys had captured a genre and a group of characters I have never read before." The filming of the pilot began in March 15, 1998. The actors behind Will and Grace, Eric McCormack and Debra Messing, were positive about the series and they thought it had the potential to last long on television. McCormack said: "When shooting was finished that night, Debra and I were sitting on the couch and looking at each other and I said, ‘We’re gonna be on this set for a while.’ And we sort of clasped hands, but we didn’t want to say anything beyond that and jinx it."
The part of Will Truman went to Eric McCormack, who was the first actor cast in the series. Having played gay characters several times in his career, McCormack did not have a problem with it and thought his character could become a "poster boy for some gay movement", like DeGeneres became a spokesperson with her character. Sean Hayes was invited to audition for Jack after a NBC casting executive saw him in a role in the indie gay romance film Billy's Hollywood Screen Kiss. Even though Hayes enjoyed the script when he read it, he threw it away and decided not to try out for the audition until he was sent the script again. Megan Mullally initially auditioned for the role of Grace Adler, but admitted that she did not want to audition for the part of Karen. By contrast, Debra Messing, with whom Mullally had first worked on Ned & Stacey, was initially unsure if she wanted to play the role of Grace. The last actor to be cast, she later admitted that director Burrows was the reason for doing Will & Grace.
The show garnered a fair amount of criticism and negative reviews upon its debut in 1998, most of which compared the show to the recently canceled ABC sitcom Ellen. Some called it "a gay Seinfeld". One such review said, "If Will & Grace can somehow survive a brutal time period opposite football and Ally McBeal, it could grow into a reasonably entertaining little anomaly -- that is, a series about a man and a woman who have no sexual interest in one another. But don't bet on it. If it's doomed relationships viewers want, they'll probably opt for Ally." As popular as the show came to be, particularly among gay viewers, Will & Grace continuously dealt with criticism for having a limited view of the gay community and for reinforcing stereotypes when some felt it should have torn them down.
The series finale was heavily promoted by NBC, and McCormack, Messing, Mullally and Hayes appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show and The Today Show to bid farewell, on May 10 and 18, respectively. NBC devoted a two-hour block in its primetime schedule on May 18, 2006, for the Will & Grace send-off. An hour-long series retrospective, "Say Goodnight, Gracie", featuring interviews with the cast, crew, and guest stars, preceded the hour-long series finale. Series creators and executive producers Kohan and Mutchnick, who had not served as writers since the season 4 finale, penned the script for "The Finale". Regarding the finale, Mutchnick stated, "We wrote about what you want to have happen with people you love... All the things that matter in life, they end up having."
Awards and nominations
Will & Grace was nominated for 83 Primetime Emmy Awards, winning 16 of them. The show is one of only four sitcoms along with All in the Family, The Golden Girls, and The Simpsons and in which all actors playing the main characters — McCormack, Messing, Hayes, and Mullally — have each won at least one acting Emmy. Mullally won second-time for her performance in 2006, a year when Will & Grace was nominated for 10 Emmys for its final season. The year before, the show had garnered 15 nominations, tied with Desperate Housewives as the series receiving the most nominations. This was almost an all-time record; the two shows were second behind The Larry Sanders Show, with 16 nominations in 1996.
With three each, both Hayes and Mullally held the record of winning the most Screen Actors Guild Awards for the categories Best Performance by an Actor in a Comedy Series and Best Performance by an Actress in a Comedy Series, respectively, for their roles in Will & Grace; however, Tina Fey went on to tie with Mullally and Alec Baldwin went on to surpass Hayes, both for their roles on the series 30 Rock. Will & Grace has won several GLAAD Media Awards for its advocacy of the gay community. Despite more than two dozen nominations, Will & Grace never won a Golden Globe Award.
The show debuted on Mondays beginning on September 21, 1998 and steadily gained in popularity, culminating when it moved to Thursday night as part of NBC's Must See TV line-up. The show ultimately became a highly rated television show in the United States, earning a top-twenty rating during four of its eight seasons, including one season at # 9. From 2001–2005, Will & Grace was the highest-rated sitcom among adults 18–49. However, when the show lost Friends as its lead-in after the 2003–04 season, Will & Grace began shedding viewers and slipped out of the top 20 during its last two seasons.
"The Finale" drew over 18 million viewers, ranking # 8 for the week, easily making it the most watched episode of the final two seasons. While the series finale is considered a ratings success, it is far from being the most watched episode of Will & Grace—that accolade remains with the season four episode "A Chorus Lie", which aired on February 7, 2002 and ranked #8 for the week. When the show was at the height of its popularity (seasons 3–5), ranking in the Top 10 was a common occurrence, but the finale's Top 10 rank was the only such rank for season 8 and the first such rank since the season 7 premiere "FYI: I Hurt, Too".
Average seasonal ratings
|Season||TV season||Timeslot (EDT)||Season Premiere||Season Finale||Rank||Viewers
|1||1998–99||Monday 9:30 P.M. (September 21, 1998 – November 30, 1998)
Tuesday 9:30 P.M. (December 15, 1998 – March 23, 1999)
Thursday 8:30 P.M. (April 8, 1999 – May 13, 1999)
|September 21, 1998||May 13, 1999||40||12.3|
|2||1999–00||Tuesday 9:00 P.M.||September 21, 1999||May 23, 2000||44||12.0|
|3||2000–01||Thursday 9:00 P.M.||October 12, 2000||May 17, 2001||14||17.3|
|4||2001–02||Thursday 9:00 P.M.||September 27, 2001||May 16, 2002||9||17.3|
|5||2002–03||Thursday 9:00 P.M.||September 26, 2002||May 15, 2003||11||16.8|
|6||2003–04||Thursday 9:00 P.M. (September 25, 2003 – January 22, 2004)
Thursday 8:32 P.M. (February 10, 2004 – April 8, 2004)
Thursday 9:00 P.M. (April 22, 2004 – April 29, 2004)
|September 25, 2003||April 29, 2004||16||15.2|
|7||2004–05||Thursday 8:30 P.M. (September 16, 2004 – May 5, 2005)
Tuesday 8:00 P.M. (May 10, 2005)
Thursday 8:30 P.M. (May 19, 2005)
|September 16, 2004||May 19, 2005||44||10.0|
|8||2005–06||Thursday 8:30 P.M. (September 29, 2005 – December 8, 2005)
Thursday 8:00 P.M. (January 5, 2006 – May 18, 2006)
|September 29, 2005||May 18, 2006||61||8.7|
The series was the first prime-time television series on U.S. terrestrial television to star openly-gay lead characters, making it the highest-profile presence of LGBT characters on U.S. broadcast television since Ellen's eponymous lead character's coming-out in the 1997 "Puppy Episode". It has also been heralded as responsible for opening the door to a string of gay-themed television programs, such as Queer as Folk, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy and Boy Meets Boy.
In May 2012, during a Meet the Press interview with host David Gregory, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden cited the series as an influence in American thinking regarding LGBT rights, saying "I think 'Will & Grace' did more to educate the American public than almost anything anybody has ever done. People fear that which is different. Now they're beginning to understand." In the same interview, Biden stated that he was "absolutely comfortable" with same-sex marriage, a statement which was followed on May 9 by President Barack Obama speaking in favor of it. The day after Obama's statement, series co-creator Mutchnick later told CBS This Morning that Biden had spoken similar words at a private function which Mutchnick and his husband had attended two weeks prior to Biden's statement, although a White House official was cited by CBS This Morning's Bill Plante as asserting that the Meet the Press interview was not a "trial balloon" for the statement. Both Mutchnick and Kohan praised Biden's statement, but were critical of Obama's stance on marriage during the time between Biden's and Obama's statements.
Will & Grace entered off-network syndication in the fall of 2002, and aired locally till 2008. In 2002 WGN America acquired the cable rights to air the series, where it aired until 2005 when Lifetime Television acquired the cable rights to air the series. After 8 years Lifetime's contract expired, the rights to the series were picked up by WeTV and Logo TV in the Fall of 2013.
In December 2003, in the midst of the series' sixth season, executive producers and creators David Kohan and Max Mutchnick sued NBC and NBC studios. Alleging that the network sold the rights to the series in an attempt to keep profits within the NBC family, Kohan and Mutchnick felt that they were cheated out of considerable profits by the network's shopping of the show to the highest bidder. Another allegation against the network was that during the first four seasons of the series, the studio licensed the rights for amounts that were insufficient for covering production costs, thus leading to extraordinarily large production deficits. Three months later, NBC filed a countersuit against Kohan and Mutchnick stating that the co-creators were expected to act as an independent third party in the negotiations between NBC and its subsidiary, NBC Studios.
With a pending lawsuit and production beginning on other projects, Kohan and Mutchnick were absent on the Will & Grace set for most of its final seasons. They wrote the season 4 episode, "A Buncha White Chicks Sittin' Around Talkin'" and did not return to the writers' seat until the series finale four years later. Three years after NBC's countersuit and one year after the series ended, the legal battle between NBC and Kohan and Mutchnick ended in 2007 when all parties agreed on a settlement, with the series creators being awarded $49 million, of their original $65 million lawsuit.
Lionsgate Home Entertainment has released all eight seasons of Will & Grace on DVD in Region 1, 2 and 4. The show was re-released and re-packaged on October 3, 2011 on region 2.
|1||22||4||August 12, 2003||August 30, 2004||2004||
|2||24||4||March 23, 2004||August 30, 2004||2004||
|3||25||4||September 7, 2004||August 30, 2004||2005||
|4||27||4||August 16, 2005||August 30, 2004||2005||
|5||24||4||August 29, 2006||March 7, 2005||2006||
|6||24||4||May 1, 2007||August 15, 2005||2007||
|7||24||4||December 4, 2007||January 30, 2006||2007||
|8||24||4||September 16, 2008||August 7, 2006||2008||
|Finale||1||1||May 30, 2006||—||—||
|1–8||194||33||September 16, 2008||August 7, 2006||April 30, 2008||Re-packaged discs from the previous releases with a bonus disc containing:
Karen: The Musical
It had been announced that Megan Mullally would be creating and starring in a new Broadway musical entitled Karen: The Musical. This musical would have had Mullally reprising her role of Karen Walker. She stated in an interview that the show may also involve recurring guest star Leslie Jordan in his role as Beverley Leslie, with a story revolving around their rivalry.
According to Mullally, the project was cancelled due to the rights to the Karen character being withdrawn. Mullally stated to have already gained approval from the network, as well as having the Broadway production company Fox Theatricals, director and choreographer Casey Nicholaw and composer Jeff Blumenkrantz all lined up to participate in the production, before certain stakeholders in the Karen Walker character withdrew the rights for its use in the production.
Jack & Karen
There had been talk in 2008 that a spin-off was being developed by NBC entitled Jack & Karen, featuring Sean Hayes and Megan Mullally reprising their roles. Hayes initially showed interest in the spin-off but was ultimately put off by the short-lived Friends spin-off, Joey. Furthermore, Mullally's new work schedule in the form of her talk show, which was canceled several months later, did not allow her to pursue the spin-off at the time.
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