What’s The Show? The second season of the revived Will & Grace
What’s It All About, JG? In line with the trend to see if just one more breath can be sucked from the desiccated corpse of 90’s nostalgia, Will & Grace – a sitcom about a gay lawyer and his live-in friend, as if you need to be told – returned to our screens in a season that would be best described as “uneven”. It struggled in the early going, but, a few wobbles aside, more or less managed to return to the easy-going, knockabout atmosphere that made the original show so watchable. Since the revival was pretty successful we have this – an attempt to get a second breath out of the aforementioned corpse. So we still have the original cast – Eric McCormack, Debra Messing, Megan Mullally and Sean Hayes – returning once more and the same basic set-up the show’s always had. Can lightning strike twice?
Why Did You Give It A Go? The original show is a bit of a strange beast – not exactly boundary-pushing for the end of the 90’s / start of the 00’s but fairly boundary-pushing for the network and timeslot it appeared in. Mostly the original was held together by the four leads’ rather charming performances and a hangout vibe that made it an easy show to drop into. The revived season, as mentioned, wasn’t flawless but it eventually found its feet so it made sense to drop in to the second revived series to see if it could continue to recapture that magic.
Is It Any Good? Nope. In fact I’d go so far as to say it’s fucking terrible. Whatever it was that made the first season of the revived show just about work has been entirely lost. This is a joyless, pointless slog that seems to have given up on the very idea that the show should be “funny” and instead thinks just having someone say something faintly in line with their character coupled with over-loud laughter is enough. It really, really isn’t. To take one example, Jack decides to put on a stage show about a closeted president from the past called Gay-braham Twink-on. That’s it. That’s the joke. Say a gay thing. Pause for unjustified laughter. String “gag” out over about four episodes. There’s no actual joke behind this, no punchline, no attempt to do anything with it at all, it just sits there. It’s insulting, and having Sean Hayes do jazz hands while saying it doesn’t make it land, it just makes it all look even more desperate. Jack himself has gone from a character who was shallow-on-top-but-heart-underneath to just unpleasantly stupid to watch, and that’s true of Karen as well. Megan Mullally does OK when playing Karen as a Trump supporter – a clumsy, half-hearted bit of satire to be sure, though hardly uncharacteristic of Karen – but nobody in the world could make the lazy, idiotic material she’s given here land. McCormack is still the ironic-straight-guy in all this but isn’t trying a leg – he just stands there, recites a line, then mugs. The only person who’s even slightly exerting themselves is perpetually under-appreciated Debra Messing – and new semi-regular David Schwimmer, of all people. They make a great pairing, with Messing doing her usual expert blend of Lucille Ball hi-jinks and brittle vulnerability and Schwimmer playing against type as an acerbic New York writer and general asshole. The two are great together and their little burgeoning relationship is the lone highlight of a disheartening, dejected season.
How Many Episodes Did You Watch? I watched all of the first reived season. This season broadcast eight episodes before Christmas, which I watched, with a further four being shown after Christmas (one has already gone to air at time of writing), which I will not be watching. I’m out! *cue waves of misplaced laughter, because that’s also a gay thing!*
Would You Recommend It? Obviously not. There’s just something so depressing about watching obviously talented people wasting their abilities on incredibly sub-standard material because it looks like the writers can’t be bothered to come up with anything funny so instead rely on their cast to make up the difference. But no cast in the world could make up that amount of difference. The wheezing, laboured gay “jokes” given to Jack would have been stale when the show first started twenty years ago, never mind now – Sean Hayes is a good physical comedian and occasionally raises a smile throwing himself around the set, but nobody could spin gold from tone-deaf, lame gags about numbing face cream or whatever. It’s all just so punishingly lazy. Megan Mullally? Love her, but she’s given nothing even remotely interesting to do, and we have Alec Baldwin making a return visit and turning in a performance identical to Jack on 30 Rock (it’s also the same performance he gives in Mission Impossible: Fallout, which suggests how much effort he was expending during that film). I mean, he’s fine at doing it and all, but again it’s just lazy – we’ve seen all this before, and it’s impossible to care about seeing it again. Eric McCormack seems to be keeping all his energy for Travellers, the sci-fi sleeper hit about time-travelling consciousnesses from the future trying to avert catastrophe in the past (sure!), because he’s sure as Tinkerbell not expending it here. *more over-the-top laughter* This is a massively dispiriting exercise in futile repetition and if this is the best the show can manage it should be cancelled forthwith and this season sent down to the very depths of TV hell. Dismal.
Scores On The Doors? 2/10, and those two points are for Messing and Schwimmer.