Show That Paved Way for Gay Marriage in Talks for NBC Revival

January 3rd, 2017 4:22 PM

Following the popularity of their election-themed mini-episode (read: Hillary Clinton ad), the cast of Will & Grace is in talks to begin shooting a revival this year.

The NBC show, which ran from 1998 to 2006, directly contributed to the media normalization of gay culture. Following the lives of a straight female interior designer, her gay male lawyer roommate, and their friends, Will & Grace certainly influenced national thought on LGBT issues.

In a 2012 interview with Meet the Press, Vice President Joe Biden discussed his “absolute comfort” with homosexual marriage, citing the role of media culture in his shifting views. “I think Will & Grace probably did more to educate the American public than almost anything anybody’s ever done so far,” he explained. “And I think—people fear that which is different. Now they’re beginning to understand.”

In 2017, the media landscape has significantly changed since the show’s heyday. LGBT characters are no longer unusual; in fact, they are expected. Largely because of exaggerated media representation, over half of Americans polled in 2015 believed that 20 percent or more of the country were gay or lesbian. In reality, according to Gallup, only four percent of Americans identified as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender in that year. The bottom line? Biden hit the nail on the head.

But The Daily Beast’s gay senior entertainment reporter, Kevin Fallon, didn’t quite see it that way. “Will & Grace was the last successful series on broadcast television to be about gayness,” he lamented in an article about his conversation with actor Eric McCormack (Will). Although he was pleased by Ellen DeGeneres’ success, and the roles of gay couple Mitch and Cam on the popular ABC show Modern Family, Fallon commented that Will & Grace was a show in which “being gay was the point.”

McCormack added: “As you say, for it to be the point—that’s going to be really hard now post November 8th for people to do that as a whole show.” Of course, that was a rather hyperbolic assertion, as Donald Trump is the first president who will enter office having articulated support of gay marriage.

Furthermore, McCormack and Fallon raise an issue of some contention within the gay community. Other journalists and activists have expressed the desire to see LGBT characters who simply exist in the media landscape without the spotlight on their sexuality. In other words, having a show where being gay is the “point” may be a first step toward normalization, but with time, the other facets of LGBT characters should take precedence over their love lives.

Will & Grace has always been progressive, so there is no knowing where the show will go in the proposed revival. Although it seems likely that NBC will run the reboot, actress Debra Messing (Grace) expressed a desire to be free from the constraints of network TV. Following “Vote Honey,” she told People: “If there was a Will & Grace 2.0, my wish is that we did 10 [episodes] on, like, Netflix or Amazon or somewhere where it could be the naughty version of Will & Grace.”

But the September 2016 reunion episode—titled “Vote Honey”—may give some clue. Ostensibly to encourage voting, the video was clearly intended to promote Hillary Clinton and denigrate Donald Trump. As McCormack told The Hollywood Reporter, “I don’t think you have to look too hard to figure out our politics…”