Will and Grace was a hit for one reason, and it had little to do with the show’s lofty intentions. It drew viewers in week after week because it was just funny: slapstick vaudeville naughty (but not too naughty) funny. It has been obvious the past couple of seasons, though, that the series was running out of steam. The spark was gone as the focus shifted into issues that are more “serious.”
Thursday’s finale reflected both the brightest and dimmest of Will and Grace. NBC, desperate for anything to pull it out of its slump, heralded it as a two-hour “event,” and promoted it as if the course of western civilization hinged upon its climax. The network’s webpage was laden with emails (presumably genuine) all saying how the respective writer would cry as the series ended.
Truth of the matter was the hype shamelessly oversold the show. It was far from an event, two hour or otherwise. It was two separate programs–one done quite well, the other – not so much.
The first program, “Say Goodnight, Gracie,” was a one-hour retrospective of the series eight season run, and it reminded us how hilarious Will and Grace could be, especially when it was Jack and Karen in the spotlight. Will and Grace themselves were too neurotic to be consistently funny, but Jack and Karen never strayed too far from loony land, and they were ultimately the glue that held the show together.
The highly trumpeted finale was a letdown, though. After a promising opening, a clever take-off of the dreaded dream ending, the episode drifted aimlessly through a series of predictable vignettes tracing the characters’ life paths over the next twenty years. It wasn’t so much that it was painful to watch but that it was drab and lifeless. If the series’ principals wanted to go out on a poignant note, they never quite made it.
Without giving away the ending, NBC did leave open the possibility of a spin-off–Will and Grace: The Next Generation perhaps?