Television reboots are opportunities for resurrected series. It’s a way to reignite loyal fans and viewers, and hopefully, collect even more with the new edition. But more importantly, it’s a chance to make the show better. Producers can finally clap back at longstanding criticisms and break through molds that limited the show before. Whether or not showrunners will take advantage of this opportunity is another issue entirely.
On Thursday night, Will & Grace returned to NBC with a new episode 11 years after what everyone thought was a series finale. The show, — about clean-cut gay lawyer and his tightly wound female best friend and roommate — has been heralded for it’s portrayal of LGBT characters. But its narrative has always been focused on the experience of an upper-middle class white man and his white friends. Will & Grace could have could have used its own reboot to address this lack of diversity. It did not.
Over a decade after ending it’s eighth season, Will & Grace is back like it never left with a ninth. Will (Erick McCormack) is still gay and crushing on a Republican congressman whose main appeal is that he’s a “power gay.” His friend Jack (Sean Hayes) is still using his extensive sexual history to get shit done, in this case getting Will face to face with the Congressman. Grace (Debra Messing)’s interior design business has grown, and she has been invited to redecorate the Oval Office for Donald J. Trump. She agrees to do it. Karen (Megan Mullally) is supportive because she voted for Trump in the election and set the gig up. She also talks to Melania on the regular. And there are still hardly any people of color.
Tony (Anthony Ramos) is the only person of color with a speaking role. He plays a junior associate at Grace’s interior design firm and appears in approximately one scene in the premiere.
The lack of people of color in the Will & Grace 2.0 premiere was intensified by the fact that it was intentionally set in a present that is anything but fine and dandy. Today, national attention is being brought to the fact that Black and brown transwomen are being targeted and killed at a rate higher than any other group. Corporatized pride parades are being interrupted and protested by Black Lives Matter activists, reminding them that racism permeates the world of rainbow flags as well. And there is the simple fact that in a city like New York, there are way more people of color than Will & Grace let on. That was true in 1998 when the show started, 2006 when the show ended, and now in it’s rebirth. That Will & Grace still has a color problem feels intentional.
For what it’s worth, Will & Grace was never supposed to be woke (even if Grace bandies the word about in the season premiere of the revival). It’s a show for middle-aged Americans who don’t like their morals or political positions to interfere with their Pilates schedule. It’s for the gay men and women who dominate wealthy neighborhoods in metropolitan cities and only take a stand on the sidelines of the pride parade. Will & Grace has tapped into this market unapologetically. Introducing people of color into the equation for the sake of intersectionality and inclusion has never been a priority. And even though we are moving past representation, pride, and even marriage as the top priorities for LGBTQ people, Will & Grace is clearly staying put.