Does Will and Grace Have The Power to Restore Must-See-TV?

Written in Revival Euphoria by Bridger Cunningham

Image result for will and graceNBC restores the balance of Must-See-TV to 4 sitcoms this fall after three seasons, anchoring its promise on its revival of Will and Grace.  A solid stable in the Thursday lineup for its 8-season entirety, Will and Grace holds potential to make a revival work.  So what works for and against this premise?  Let's examine the facts.

All Of The Principle Cast Is Returning, Chemistry Intact

Eric McCormack, Debra Messing, Sean Hayes and Megan Mullally are back, beautiful and polished as ever.  11 years cannot take away the actors'/characters' chemistry, working in favor of this show succeeding.  No matter how strong or tenuous the writing is, the actors are powerhouse performers and have proven they can turn lemons into lemon drop cocktails as their chemistry is intoxicating.  Worst case scenario, their truth to character may help a poorly-written premise as these actors know their alters like they would a spouse.

The Actors are Reasonable and Talented

Part of the reason revivals of Seinfeld and Friends may not work is several of its past performers would only return if the salary is right.  McCormack, Messing, Mullally and Hayes are talents who seem reasonable enough to relax their 2000's salary expectations in favor of art.  Past failures such as The Mysteries of Laura, Smash, Sean Saves the World, The Millers and You, Me and the Apocalypse show these actors' devotions to the art/industry are tireless.  They recognize they can make fireworks at one stop, and also fail to ignite a spark at the next.  The quartet yearn to step into their old shoes as they legitimately enjoyed the experience vs. lining their pockets for retirement.

Retcon To The Rescue

That bittersweet twist in the finale was well-written, albeit sobering for longtime viewers who yearned for a happy ending.  Retroactive Connectivity, or Retcon, is considered a faux-pas as it ignore past plot developments.  It can undo a beautiful legacy, or in a positive twist rectify a foul.  Roseanne is taking this approach to undo principle character Dan's death, and the Will and Grace revival is utilizing the same approach to undo the 20-year hiatus between characters Grace and Will.  This Retcon is welcome as it does not undo the beautiful 8-year legacy, but rather the last moments of a finale which was oh-so-obviously written for shock value. Retconning the last moments opens the creative floodgates and aids the writers to deliver us a well-crafted return.

NBC Seems to Have Faith

A premature 2-season renewal demonstrates the peacock network is pleased with the yet-to-air finished product.  And NBC has proven credentials as their renewed sitcoms are critical darlings.  Said gesture will allow viewers to invest as they know they will be treated to a longer run vs. failed teases like 24 and Prison Break.  Regardless of ratings performance, viewers are treated to inviting characters into their living rooms like a set of beloved neighbors not seen in 11 years.

The LGBT Factor Is Not-So-Controversial in 2017.

Working for and against this revival's success is the fact that unlike its 1998 debut, having gay characters is more common in 2017.  This issue shows America has better understood and relaxed its controversy over the topic in 20 years.  Yet on that token, that same controversy helped catapult the series to mainstream success.  Writers are wisest to focus on characters who happen to be gay vs. being gay on TV, as the issue is dated.  A glaring example is ABC's failed foray into sitcom The Real O'Neal's, focused on a teen character coming out to his family and the ensuing adventures.  After the initial starfire and launch wore off, O'Neal's seemed like a tired trope which may have succeeded in 2002.  However, the Will and Grace revival appears to be focused on character vs. plot, so this vehicle may be a legacy ticket to showing the progress made in the years absent.

The Network Needs (Sitcom) Help

NBC boasted a plethora of critically heralded and Nielsen-sturdy sitcoms from 1984 through the late 1990's, once housing 18 offerings per week.  Flash forward to 2017, and the four sitcoms renewed are tepid at best.  Leading the evening is Superstore, a fresh single cam which regularly places 3rd in its 8:00 space to The Big Bang Theory and Grey's Anatomy.  Following in its soft footsteps is also critically-lauded The Good Place, which rated in a similar soft delivery last fall.  Only 13 episodes are committed, the same as last season.  Great News, which follows Will and Grace at 9:30, rated abysmally yet received a surprise renewal last season.  Yet to air is Trial and Error, which also suffered awkward scheduling and anemic ratings.

This leaves 4 shaky sitcoms to help rebuild the comedy franchise against the slew of drama and reality-TV winners the peacock boasts.  Will and Grace is a welcome addition and perhaps could be the network's tentpole, even if it scores a 1.3 18-49 demo measure.  W&G will help warm up The Good Place, as well as heat up Great News' cold bed if W&G succeeds.  A 16-episode order is a welcome change from the network's recent 10-13 pop-tart delivery to cover an expansive season.

9:00 Competition Is Ripe For the Taking

CBS and ABC regularly joust for the top-2 placings among the 5 networks, leaving scraps for the other three networks to feast.  This year changes the dynamic as Scandal exits the air in 2018 on ABC, and TGIT is fading.  CBS first has football, then Mom returning for a 5th season at 9:00.  The Chuck Lorre fare about reformed winos delivers strong in the worst of scheduling circumstances.  Will and Grace is a departure in crass tone and may trigger an avalanche in Mom's ratings.  Elsewhere, FOX's Orville is a risky Seth MacFarlane venture, and CW has Arrow returning for a 6th Season.  Age is working in Will and Grace's favor as fans may be due for a change.

What The Past Ratings Tell

Will and Grace peaked in 9th Place during season 3, riding high on the ratings crest until season 7.  Converse to fellow revival Roseanne, Will and Grace was affected by network climate during its lengthy run.  Roseanne placed in the top-4 its first 6 seasons and in the top-20 for season 7-8.  It never experienced losses due to the network's turn of fortunes, rather due to self-contained performance.  Will and Grace's tale contrasts as it delivered moderately its first 2 seasons, catapulting to popularity during seasons 3-6.  Will and Grace peaked in 9th and 10th Place between households and demos.  Then, 2004 dragged the aging show down the drain as its hair caught on the network's downturn in 2004.

Will and Grace is likely to debut a modest performer, reaching mid-1.0's if successful.  This will be an improvement over past seasons if this comes to fruition.  If W&G blends in with the remaining ho-hum sitcoms in the low 1.0's, it will blend right in with the community.  Ratings above a 2.0 are forecast as a longshot, though not impossible.

Will This Revival Grace NBC?

Past performance, solid actors and a familiar timeslot are working in favor of this revival.  Whether the humor will deliver with the same ignition in 2017 has yet to be determined.  Regardless, NBC picked a strong contender to revive and will bring Thursdays into the speculation and publicity forefront for two years at the least.

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