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The Secret Sauce: Why ‘Will & Grace’ is Working as a Revival

Unlike the array of single-camera comedies on NBC over the years, "Will & Grace" makes us laugh at a tumultuous time in our country.

I admit it. I did not want NBC to revive “Will & Grace.” Once a fan, I was so disgusted by the lack of character development in the original sitcom, I stopped watching regularly during the Harry Connick, Jr. era and beyond, which would have been the last four seasons of the original 1998-2006 run. When were these characters—Will (Eric McCormack), Grace (Debra Messing), Jack (Sean Hayes) and Karen (Megan Mullally)—going to grow up, I wondered.

I couldn’t even get through the series finale, when—egads!—we flash to the future and learn that Will and Grace’s children move into the same dorm together, and 20 years have gone by since the pair have even communicated. Honey, that just sounded like complete bullshit to me—almost as bad as John Goodman’s Dan Conner “dying” in the finale of ABC’s “Roseanne.”

Considering Goodman is returning as good ol’ Dan in ABC’s upcoming revival of “Roseanne,” I guess that, too, was all a dream! For more, click here

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Written by Marc Berman

Marc Berman has been writing professionally since 1999 and is the author of weekly column “Mr. Television” for Campaign US (www.campaignlive.com). Most recently, Berman was the creator and Editor-in-Chief of website and newsletter TV Media Insights for Cross MediaWorks. From 1999-2011, he was the Senior Editor for Mediaweek and has also written for The New York Daily News, Variety, The Hollywood Reporter and Emmy Magazine, among others. Berman has also appeared on “Entertainment Tonight,” “Extra,” “Access Hollywood,” “Inside Edition,” “The CBS Evening News,” E!, CNN, CNBC, Fox News and MSNBC.

2873 posts
  • Louis

    I think that they have done a perfect job of mixing the nostalgia factor with the updated topics.
    I am not as confident about the Roseanne reboot. I am worried that it is going to be more like the last couple of seasons where Roseanne was out of control.

    • Hello Larry

      I agree that’s the key ingredient besides the original cast and producers being attached to it. I think the nostalgia factor mixed in with current topics makes it feel fresh. Like I told you guys before Roseanne should work and will work because I believe it will have the same ingredients like W&G does with the original cast and a great duo of writers in Whitney Cummings and Wanda Sykes at the helm. I will say this though Roseanne won’t be better than W&G though as the original series wasn’t either W&G is on a whole other level in terms of all-time quality for sitcoms.

      Right now I can’t wait to see what the next comedy revival is this is becoming fun ever since Fuller House and Girl Meets World got the ball rolling on them 2 years ago. It’s a damn shame though Disney Channel ended GMW when it was getting hot in terms of quality that’s the best Disney Channel comedy ever made.

      • Louis

        I will take your opinion and hope for the best for Roseanne. I will definitely try it no matter what. I wonder if Frasier could be rebooted with the same cast. Would be interesting to see where the characters are now.

        • Hello Larry

          I’m just like you though Louis overall I’m still nervous even though I’m a little bit confident in the quality but I’ll see where its at after about 4-5 episodes. I’m hoping Roseanne doesn’t kill the momentum of these comedy revivals on the quality end.

          Yeah I was wondering about Frasier because for whatever reason it seems like that’s the one that will be the most easier to do right now since the cast was smaller too. I would love to see where the cast is too I’ve seen Kelsey Grammer he seems to be just chilling I know he was producing a lot of stuff for a while like The Game and Girlfriends and I think Medium as well. I think he went back into acting though. Jane Leeves has kept herself active but I think if Kelsey is interested in doing it then they’ll likely get it going.

          • Louis

            I wonder if the creators of some the old shows have kept a list of story lines they could use if they did more episodes. Another show that I would have loved to have seen more eps was Everybody Loves Raymond but that ship has sailed since most of the oldest generation have passed away. The show just would not be funny without them, particularly Peter Boyle and Doris Roberts.

          • Hello Larry

            You know what that’s interesting it’s possible they’ve kept storylines they never used and might’ve used them if more seasons were ordered or they’re using for these revivals.

            I would love to see a Raymond revival but like you said the older generation has passed on them but Patricia Heaton is available after this season with The Middle ending. I think the parents gave the show a spark so it probably wouldn’t be as funny, they would have to find some other casting parts. This one might should rest forever there’s plenty of other comedies that can be rebooted.

          • Louis

            I read that during the writers strike several years ago, some writers kept a log of plot lines and some one liners that occurred to them so they could use them when they returned from striking.

          • renamoretti1

            Of course they did. Why wouldn’t they? As long as they don’t deliver them to the producers, it’s not forbidden. Neither was writing specs.

            On reboots, I’ll say it again:

            No more reboots! No more Remakes! No more re-anything!!! 🙂

          • Hello Larry

            Yeah that’s another reason for them to keep those logs in storage so that when they comeback from a situation. I heard they also keep logs from stuff that gets picked over like they could write for 40 episodes and are only able to use 22 of them so there’s a lot that we don’t get a chance to see.

  • Hello Larry

    Wow just a great article Marc Berman and probably the best I read in terms of W&G since its been back. It’s a must read for people who follow the industry or the ratings. This pretty much summed up why W&G has been successful. Quality is a key part of it though because if it came back bad we’d be talking about W&G as a flop today. I noticed this with the Dallas and Fuller House reboots that the original cast and producers coming back is key as well because you don’t lose a lot of the magic that the original had when it was at or near its peak in quality. Also there’s a great mix of nostalgia and current day topics so it doesn’t feel outdated or anything like that or too modern like a lot of reboots get wrong that’s why people don’t like to see them because it ruins the taste of the original but W&G doesn’t do that. If you ask me the new episodes have been better than the last 4 seasons of W&G and up to par with the first 4 seasons.

    I think the key thing you brought up Marc was how single-cams approach their episode quality they think too much about awards and try too hard to make people laugh. It’s more organic in multi-cams like Will & Grace that’s why so many of them like Friends and BBT have been so popular over the years. W&G doesn’t try hard at all to be funny they just are naturally. The reactions of the studio audience adds to the atmosphere. I really think there’s an appetite for multi-cams like Will & Grace after Fuller House and maybe Last Man Standing being canned left a void too for people to watch something, W&G is not a young family show but it’s something you can share with your friends and family. I know at least 8 people in real-life who are watching this revival every week and enjoying it. I haven’t heard anybody doing that with an NBC comedy since W&G been off the air. I really think W&G right now is the best comedy on the air right now.

    NBC made the right decision overall to bring back W&G and I think there’s an appetite for more familiar titles with familiar faces this is why I think NBC should do a couple of more comedy revivals like Cheers or Frasier, Saved By the Bell, Family Ties, The Facts of Life, or whatever else from back in the day would work today. I remember when NBC was going to try Coach and I was excited about that but Coach wasn’t as big in popularity as W&G so I’m not sure how well it would’ve done. The problem with the newer comedies is that nobody knows about them because people don’t really watch networks like they used to right before the mid-2000s so a well promoted familiar face can help.

    I think NBC can help with that problem by reviving one more of these comedies I just mentioned and have them anchor the block by leading off and this may help NBC find a new hit comedy down the road. I always said that NBC needed to go back to multi-cams and find quality ones because that was always their bread and butter historically. They had a nice run with Earl and The Office in the past decade but it was never enough so hopefully this sets up a new era for them.

    I think when it comes to revivals for now on people should have full confidence in them as long as the original cast and producers are attached to them that’s why I think Roseanne will do well I have 100% confidence in this working plus I really always liked Whitney Cummings and Wanda Sykes work them two together is like a burst of talent waiting to explode.

    • gobluespartyon

      I’m surprise that Cheers, Facts Of Life, Family Ties, Saved By The Bell have never been rebooted etc. Since reboots are the in thing in Hollywood I’d give any of those shows a look if they ever do bring it back on TV. Although I wonder where NBC would put Saved By The Bell because it did fail in primetime when it was the College Years and they gave up on Tween Shows in 2002.

      • renamoretti1

        If TV wants to live again, it needs to make new, fresh shows, not endless rehashes.

        • Tracy Flood

          AMEN!

          • renamoretti1

            Thank you. 🙂

      • Hello Larry

        Yeah me too those seem to be easy to do especially since all of the show’s casts are available or would be willing to do it. Like Family Ties has done a bunch of reunions and NBC just had Michael J. Fox a few years ago for a new comedy. Facts of Life cast is tight as they’re still good friends today and you could easily find a bunch of new kids and use Blair, Tootie, and Natalie as the new Ms. Garrett. Cheers cast is old but that also means they’re available and NBC already has Ted Danson and you could probably mix that cast in with a new generation of bar hoppers. I think Frasier could be done easily too as long as Kelsey Grammer is willing to do it. Saved By the Bell has had small reunions too and most of the cast said they would be willing to do it, the only problem is the Dustin Diamond situation but you can do the show without him.

        I’m really surprised that none these shows haven’t been rebooted yet and like you said Hollywood does it all the time so I’m shocked its taken this long to reboot TV comedies it seems like the dramas were done more.

        Great question about Saved By the Bell though since that aired on Saturday mornings on Teen NBC but College Years aired in primetime but failed after one year and they gave up on tween shows like you said in 2002 when Teen NBC ended. NBC and a lot of of other broadcasters have not tried to do a tween comedy not even The CW maybe this is why Facts of Life hasn’t been done yet either. The closest thing to this is family comedies. I would love to see a network try a tween comedy in the future.

        With Saved By the Bell it can probably convert into being an adult comedy following their lives 30 years later if they use the original cast. If they use new kids that will be interesting. I think they can probably have some of the cast follow their kid’s high school life similar to the way Disney did it with Girl Meets World or something.

        • gobluespartyon

          Saved By The Bell can do the show without Dustin & Screech they could make it adult or make it like Girl Meets World like Disney did with the kids. I think the networks should get back into Tween shows too bad they don’t program Saturday Nights or maybe Friday Nights where Boy Meets World was during their 7 year run. Yeah surprise that The CW never has done Tween shows on Saturday Mornings which it’s a shame everyone gave up and now is nature shows & E/I programming no cartoons either.

          • Hello Larry

            Yeah either option is good to try I think if NBC revived it would probably be more of an adult comedy but I would like a mix of the two like Girl Meets World so we can get a tween comedy feel in there so that this current generation can have something on the comedy end to grow up on it sucks for kids today. I totally agree about Screech they don’t need him but it’d be cool if he grew up and apologized to the cast and cleaned his life up.

            I agree networks should get back into the tween shows it’s time for the networks to think about the future generations and make sure they can grow up something like we all did when we were coming up so that you can always go back to the well and do revivals 20-40 years from now and keep that train going. Nickelodeon, Disney Channel, and streaming services are okay but not big enough to sustain a pop culture tween comedy hit especially with all of the cord cutting in the past few years for the cable kid networks.

            I hate it that the networks don’t program Saturday mornings or Friday nights anymore for the kids. The cool thing about TGIF back in the day it was a great ground for kids to end their school week and watch some comedies then cartoons the next morning. I liked the way NBC countered CBS, FOX, and ABC with the teen shows. The nature stuff is so boring and I’m surprised The CW when they still had Kids WB didn’t delve into that.

            Hopefully somebody just steps up to the plate and tries it. I don’t think they have anything to lose even if it fails.

          • renamoretti1

            Girl Meets World was sadly a disaster as the creator let Disney make it into an politically-charged indoctrination show…

            That might have been the last straw for me as far as expecting anything but disaster from any of those continuations (and I won’t tell you about the X-Files reunion…) 😉

    • renamoretti1

      Again if “success” is 6 million viewers, TV is dead… (which is not far from the truth where we stand now sadly). 🙁

  • renamoretti1

    Sorry to disagree on the premise, but can s how with 6 million overnight viewers really be said to “work”.

    it is coasting on the audience it had and doesn’t even get solid ratings.

    NBC has MUCH worse, but that doesn’t make W&G “work”…