Will & Grace is an American television sitcom that was originally broadcast on NBC from September 21, 1998 to May 18, 2006, for a total of eight seasons and they returned to the run on September 28, 2017. Will & Grace remains the most successful television series with gay principal characters.
The show takes place in New York City and focuses on Will Truman, a gay lawyer, and his best friend Grace Adler, a straight Jewish woman who runs her own interior design firm. Also featured are their friends Karen Walker, a rich socialite, and Jack McFarland, a struggling actor.
A gay lawyer, he studied at Columbia University, where he met Grace. They have been best friends ever since. He has a very neurotic side, especially when it comes to cleaning. Several characters have commented that his relationship with Grace is more like that of a romantic couple than of two friends.
An interior designer with an apparent obsession with food, who has been Will's best friend since college. Selfish, messy and neurotic, she often plays as a counter-balance for Will's more uptight nature.
One of Will's best friends, he is flamboyant and superficial. He plays a more stereotypical gay role than Will. Jack drifts from boyfriend to boyfriend and job to job, including struggling actor, retail associate and student nurse. Early on in the show he establishes a close friendship with Karen.
The wife of the wealthy (but never seen) Stan Walker. She "works" as Grace's assistant making "Grace Adler Designs" more popular among her social contacts. Known for abusing alcohol and pills, she can be quite insensitive, but is close to Grace and Jack, and occasionally Will.
|Season||Episodes||Originally Aired (U.S. dates)|
|Season Premiere||Season Finale|
|1||22||September 21, 1998||May 13, 1999|
|2||24||September 21, 1999||May 23, 2000|
|3||25||October 12, 2000||May 17, 2001|
|4||27||September 27, 2001||May 16, 2002|
|5||24||September 26, 2002||May 15, 2003|
|6||24||September 25, 2003||April 25, 2004|
|7||24||September 16, 2004||May 19, 2005|
|8||24||September 29, 2005||May 18, 2006|
|9||16||September 28, 2017||April 5, 2019|
|10||18||October 4, 2018||April 4, 2019|
|11||18||October 24, 2019||April 9, 2020|
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 City 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 was 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," Kohan said, "there's no question that show made it easier for Will & Grace to make it on the air." He added: "Will & Grace had a better shot at succeeding where Ellen failed, however, because Will has known about his homosexuality for 20 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 on 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 and 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.
In January 2017, NBC closed a deal for a new 10-episode season of the series, which aired during the 2017–18 season. Hayes executive produced this season as well as creators/executive producers Max Mutchnick and David Kohan. Veteran director James Burrows is on board to direct and executive produce. In April 2017, the episode order was increased to 12 episodes. In August 2017, it was extended again to 16 episodes, and a second 13-episode season was ordered. The revival is filmed at Stage 22 at Universal Studios Hollywood, as opposed to Stage 17 at CBS Studio Center. In March 2018, NBC ordered five more episodes for the revival's second season, bringing the total to 18 episodes, and it was also renewed for an 18-episode third and final season.
Awards and nominations
Will & Grace entered off-network syndication in 2002. 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 eight years and the expiration of Lifetime's contract, the rights to the series were picked up by WeTV and Logo TV in 2013, with both eventually letting the rights lapse.
The streaming service Hulu later picked up the show, in anticipation of the show's revival in 2017, with the entire series also carried on NBC.com. Around the same time, NBC's classic subchannel network Cozi TV picked up the series and airs it four times nightly, and promotes it as "The Original Series" to avert confusion with the current-day run.
In the United Kingdom, the series was aired on Channel 4 up until its season finale in 2006. It was confirmed on 4 December 2017 that the series would premiere in January 2018 on Channel 5. The tenth season was not broadcast and instead went straight to a DVD release on 5 August 2019.
In Ireland, the series first aired on TV3 Ireland until its conclusion in 2006. It was confirmed in January 2018 rival channel RTÉ2 picked up the broadcasting rights for the 2017–18 season run, beginning in February 2018.
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. Universal Studios Home Entertainment will release all future seasons on DVD and Blu-Ray.
In Australia, after the original sets were released, the first reissues were released, with Season 1 & 2 on 5 September 2007, Season 3-5 on 3 October 2007 and Seasons 6-8 on 21 November 2007. These releases were then later packaged as 'The Complete Will & Grace Collection' box set which was released on 19 November 2008. The second reissue were the entire 8 seasons released in 2011 with updated artwork and then later packed as 'Will & Grace: All 8 Seasons' which was released on 2 November 2012. Then in 2014, the entire series were once again reissued, now back to the original artwork the same as the 2007 releases with some minor differences. Initially the 'All 8 Seasons' boxset was released with the 2011 reissues, but later editions contained the 2014 reissues. On 13 June 2018 another box set was released, 'Will & Grace: All 9 Seasons' which contained the 2014 reissues and the first season of the revival series.