5 Favorite TV Shows of All Time, #1: Will & Grace


So, given my choices for shows 2-5, this one is going to feel like something of a left turn.  Despite what you may think, I do enjoy the occasional comedy show or movie.  For instance, I recently watched Airplane! on the advice of a coworker, and that’s got to be one of the funniest movies I’ve ever seen.  Thing is, that movie came out in 1980.  Most comedies since around 2006 or so tend to appeal to the lowest common denominator, getting cheap laughs out of what I term “dick and pussy jokes.”  Furthermore, many of them tell versions of the same joke over and over again for scenes on end, to the point where I just get tired of them and move on (The 40-Year-Old Virgin comes readily to mind).

But every so often, a truly witty and intelligent comedy comes along, and I’m left laughing hysterically.  Will & Grace stands head and shoulders above any comedic show I’ve ever seen, and any show at all for that matter.  The basic premise is this: Will (Eric McCormack) & Grace (Debra Messing) are the rare breed of man and woman who are friends but have absolutely no sexual interest in each other, because Will is gay.  This turns the usual sitcom format on its head.  Then, you add in snappy writing and great acting, and the end result is awesome.  Many fans of the show contend that Will & Grace’s characters don’t carry the show, but rather Karen (Megan Mullaly) and Jack (Sean Hayes) do.  Their characters are a little more exaggerated and less realistic, but it’s that contrast with the more conventional Will & Grace that produces some of the show’s funnier moments.

Probably the thing I like most about Will & Grace is its smart satire.  The show’s best moments are when it takes traditional gender & sex stereotypes and turn them on their head, such as during one of my favorite episodes, “A Chorus Lie,” in which Jack tries to expose a straight guy posing as gay (guest-starring Matt Damon):

Karen’s character is also the source of many a laugh, such as this scene, when Grace finds out that Karen was once in a fetish film (sorry about the shakiness of the clip):

This is not the most original gag in the world, but Sean Hayes’s delivery of it makes it a standout moment for Jack:

The show’s creators kept innovating even in later seasons (rare for a show that ran this long), shooting some episodes live in one take, in front of a studio audience:

Finally, Will & Grace is probably best known for its abundance of guest stars.  I provided one example above, but another of my favorites is Britney Spears’s appearance as a conservative Southern belle with a secret.  Britney actually won some respect from me for that one (again, ignore the weirdness toward the end of the video, just enjoy the clip):

In short, Will & Grace is the king (queen?) of comedies, and I haven’t seen any challenger that comes close to toppling it yet.  I own all eight seasons on DVD, and I still laugh out loud when I go back and watch them on occasion.  It’s one of those few instances where everyone involved has unmistakable chemistry, and it shows on screen.  It’s one of those pop culture artifacts that defined my high school years, which makes it fitting that it ended in 2006, the year I graduated high school.  It does, and always will, hold a special place in my heart.


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