Take a deep breath. Will and Grace’s new season is great. But it has one major flaw.
After 40 minutes of staring at a blank screen and pacing nervously around my room, I finally pressed play on the new season of Will and Grace. The series’ return is not just good. It’s belly-laugh-until-you-cry good.
‘Will and Grace’ review
Episode 1, “Eleven Years Later,” gets off to a rocky start. The rhythm feels off. Like listening to an album you loved a decade ago, thinking you remember every beat. But when you start listening again, every song feels just a half-second off. But then you come across that track that stayed with you even after all those years. Once you catch the flow, all the memories attached to it come flooding back.
The first episode is that first-listen. And by the second and third episodes, the music falls right back into being second nature.
Apartment 9C feels familiar, yet different. Almost every inch of the apartment has experienced a facelift. But the hallmarks of the series, a painting here, a mirror there, and the four bodies who occupy the space, keep it grounded.
Small moments reveal the passage of time without losing the playful connection between the characters. From Grace taking Will’s reading glasses to look at letter he is writing, to Jack and Karen making grand and hilarious entrances and exits in and out of 9C.
The most contemporary influence on season 9 is also the most subtle. Every character has a cell phone in their hands or around their person. It’s not called out, they do not have their keyboard sounds on (THANK YOU!). They simply adapted it into the series acting like any normal human does, looking at something, anything on their screens, when the focus is elsewhere in the scene.
“Eleven Years Later” has a lot to say and it does accented by the moments that capture the magic of the original series. As the episode comes to a close, a comment by Karen launches the series into its groove.
Will and Grace will not have Cheetos, Russia, or Kellyanne Conway references in every episode. Instead, they trade the politics for Ben Platt’s incredible guest role, compression suits, and mean girls. It continues to exist in a fantasy world. One where a pillow fight in the Oval Office fits seamlessly with an emotionally-charged conversation that is handled by comparing very real problems to the Princess Diana-Royal Family era.
While everyone brings their A-game, Sean Hayes has a remarkable return in the first three episodes. His physical comedy in episode 2 is award-worthy. (Unfortunately, the comedy categories in award shows now default to drama.) Megan Mullally’s Karen is as crass and hysterical as we left her. And Will and Grace’s fierce arguments and sentimental makeups will still make your heart ache a little bit.
Will and Grace tugs at the sentimental, nostalgic heartstrings of the original series just enough to strike the balance between feeling new and yet familiar.
That said, die-hard fans may have a problem with one major aspect of the show. I know I do. And while it may be minuscule on the grand scale of things that could go wrong, it’s a sour spot on an otherwise incredible ride.
Will and Grace season 9 proves that lightning can be captured twice.
Will and Grace season 9, episode 1, “Eleven Years Later,” airs Thursday, September 28 at 9:00 p.m. ET on NBC.