Will & Grace Ended 10 Years Ago — Now What?

Photo: Bill Reitzel/NBC/Getty Images.
On May 18, 2006 — that's 10 years ago today — TV audiences said goodbye to Will Truman and Grace Adler, not to mention their hilarious cohorts, Jack McFarland and Karen Walker. Will & Grace had an eight-season run that brought gay characters to the forefront, succeeding where shows like Ellen, which carried a parental advisory warning after Ellen DeGeneres came out as a lesbian, struggled.

The award-winning sitcom has even won praise from Vice President Joe Biden.

"I think Will & Grace probably did more to educate the American public than almost anything anybody has done so far," Biden said in a defense of same-sex marriage in 2012.

"These characters connected with people at a very personal level, in their homes, and allowed non-LGBT audiences to find shared commonalities and learn more about our community," echoed Ray Bradford, GLAAD director of programs for entertainment media, in an interview with Refinery29.

So, where are we now, 10 years after the Will & Grace finale? The past decade has given us LGBT-centric shows like Looking, The L Word, and Lip Service, none of which are still on the air. LGBT characters, do, however, thrive on programs like Orange Is the New Black, Modern Family, and Transparent. But GLAAD's 2015 Where We Are On TV report — the 2016 version isn't released until this October — shows there's still much work to be done.

While the report showed an overall increase in both regular and recurring LGBT characters, cable and streaming shows are responsible for the bulk of that progress. The number of regular LGBT characters counted on cable shows increased from 64 to 84 (and recurring characters from 41 to 58), but just 4% of characters on prime-time broadcast networks (ABC, NBC, CBS, etc.) were identified as LGBT. Though soap operas have introduced characters who are trans, no prime-time show has followed suit. CBS will remedy that with the casting of trans actress Laverne Cox in its new show, Doubt.

"Simply put, we want to see more substantive and diverse LGBT characters," Bradford explained. "There are zero regular or recurring transgender characters on prime-time scripted broadcast, many bisexual characters still fall into outdated and dangerous tropes, and the overwhelming majority of LGBT characters are white."

With projects like ABC's miniseries about the Stonewall riots, When We Rise, in the pipeline, GLAAD is hopeful that this year's report will paint a more diverse picture. Diversity is more than just a numbers game, however.

"It isn’t enough for LGBT characters just to be present," Bradford insisted. "They must be crafted with thought and substance. We want to see more nuanced and fully realized characters rather than tokens and shallow stereotypes."

Here are some current shows that are trying to do their part.
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Video: Courtesy of Netflix.
Sense8
Bradford singled out this sci-fi drama, co-created by Lilly and Lana Wachowski, both of whom are trans, as a strong example of diverse storytelling. Jamie Clayton, a trans woman, has a lead role on the show as Nomi.

"Sense8 is one standout in that Nomi, a hacker who happens to be trans and a lesbian, is living her life beyond the 'coming out' narrative we so often see in trans-inclusive stories," he explained.
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Video: Courtesy of ABC/Sky 1.
Modern Family
ABC's hit sitcom has won plaudits for showing a long-term, loving relationship between two gay men, bringing topics like gay marriage and adoption to the mainstream. The show has also faced criticism from those who accuse Cam and Mitchell (Eric Stonestreet and Jesse Tyler Ferguson) of reinforcing stereotypes. Like Eric McCormack's Will Truman, Cam is played by a straight man, Stonestreet, who has won two Emmys for the role.
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Video: Courtesy of the BBC.
London Spy
This year's BBC drama series focuses on the romance between Ben Whishaw's Danny and Edward Holcroft's Alex. Steamy sex scenes between the men leave little to the imagination, prompting a short-lived rumor that British broadcasting watchdog Ofcom would be investigating the show. Ofcom declined to do so, explaining that its "broadcasting rules do not discriminate between scenes involving opposite sex and same-sex couples."
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Video: Courtesy of Netflix.
Orange Is the New Black
Lesbian sex runs rampant within the walls of Litchfield Prison. Diversity counts, too, with Black inmates Poussey (Samira Wiley) and Crazy Eyes (Uzo Aduba) among those pursuing same-sex relationships.
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Video: Courtesy of ABC.
How to Get Away With Murder, Scandal, & Grey's Anatomy
Shondaland has no issue with putting LGBT characters (HTGAWM's Connor, Scandal's Cyrus, The Catch's Margot, and Grey's Anatomy's Callie and Arizona) on prime-time.
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Video: Courtesy of Netflix.
Grace and Frankie
President Bartlet (Martin Sheen) and EADA Jack McCoy (Sam Waterston) are longtime lovers who have left their wives in this Netflix sitcom.
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Video: Courtesy of Amazon.
Transparent
Jeffrey Tambor has won both an Emmy and Golden Globe for his portrayal of Maura, a father of three who comes out as transgender. The show also explores lesbian and bisexual relationships.
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Video: Courtesy of ABC.
Black-ish
Another shout-out for ABC. Raven-Symoné, who has had same-sex relationships in real life, plays the recurring role of Dre's lesbian sister Rhonda on the family sitcom.
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Video: Courtesy of Fox.
Empire
Luscious and Cookie's middle son, Jamal (Jussie Smollett), struggles with homophobia within the music industry and his own family.
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Video: Courtesy of ABC.
The Real O'Neals
Noah Galvin plays Kenny, this Catholic family's teen son who comes out at 16. Galvin himself came out at 14.
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Video: Courtesy of HBO.
Girls
Though Hannah and Jessa have each had lesbian experiences, Elijah (Andrew Rannells) is the series' only gay lead, unless you count Mr. Horvath.
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Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.
Master of None
Dev's crew includes Black lesbian Denise (Lena Waithe), the queen of schooling everyone on how relationships really work. The role wasn't originally intended to be a lesbian or Black, but it was rewritten to reflect Waithe's background.
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Video: Courtesy of Showtime.
Shameless
Polyamory is getting some play courtesy of Kevin, Veronica, and Svetlana's relationship. The show has also featured the character of Ian Gallagher (Cameron Monaghan) in several gay relationships.
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Video: Courtesy of MTV.
Teen Wolf
Though Ethan (Charlie Carver) and Danny (Keahu Kahuanui) are no longer on the show, Teen Wolf continues to introduce LGBT characters, including Mason (Khylin Rhambo) and Corey (Michael Johnston).
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Video: Courtesy of Freeform.
The Fosters
Teri Polo and Sherri Saum play a lesbian couple raising foster children, including a gay son, in this family drama.
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Video: Courtesy of The CW.
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
Anyone else still shipping White Josh (David Hull) and Darryl (Pete Gardner)?
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Video: Courtesy of Freeform.
Pretty Little Liars
Shay Mitchell's Emily is outed and then sent to a boot camp, but continues to have lesbian relationships.
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