Monday, October 02, 2017

TV: Sometimes you can go home again

When reboots were announced earlier this year, The Water Cooler Set wondered how ROSEANNE could come back from the last ten minutes of the last episode?

In those minutes, the character of Roseanne (Roseanne Barr) reveals in a voice over that Dan died and the whole show was her novel.  She says she switched the reality of Becky and David and Darlene and Mark to Becky and Mark and Darlene and David, etc.

This was, The Water Cooler Set insisted, going to be so hard to get over.

And they said nothing about WILL & GRACE.

Remember WILL & GRACE?

It had one of the worst endings of any sitcom.

As we noted in real time:

Thursday night, NBC's Will & Grace ended its eighth season and its series run.

For us, the funniest plot revolved around Rosario (Shelley Morrison) and Val (regular guest-star Molly Shannon). Having fought Grace, stalked Jack and been knocked out by Karen, it was past time Val set her eyes on Rosario.

"Hey, Nutso!" Rosario cried catching Val watching her wax the floors of Karen's mansion, "if you get off on household fluids, go stalk Mr. Clean!"

Of course Val did no such thing, but she did provide Rosario with a scheme to oust Karen (Megan Mullally) from the manse and make it her own. It was hilarious, and a long time coming, to see Rosario get the upper hand.

Meanwhile, Grace's water broke just as Leo (Harry Connick, Jr.) showed up and learned he was the father of the baby. Accompanying Grace (Deborah Messing) and Will (Eric McCormack) to the hospital and listening to them bicker throughout the labor, he finally had to face the reality that, while there was a place for him in Grace's life, the friendship bond between Will and Grace will never fade or die.

Jack rediscovered the joys of performing when a recently out of the closet Harlin (Gary Grubbs) returned to announce he's purchased a legitimate theater on Broadway which will be where Just Jack: 2010 will debut. "Oh my God," Jack will realize, "that only leaves me four years to pull my act together!"

Best line in the subplot was probably when Harlin explained to Jack why it took so long for him to realize his own sexuality, "I'm from Texas, Jack. We watch a lot of football. Took me forever to realize it wasn't the cries of 'Hut one! Hut two!' that were getting me excited. It was the the buns in the air on the guy crouched over --"

"That's great," Jack replied. "Now about my revue. I see sequins. I think it's important to sparkle when I move."

Which leads him to recruit Bobbie Adler (Debbie Reynolds) to help him with arrangements and choreography -- a post she readily accepts because she's determined to sabotage the production in order to take the lead in her own show Menopause or The Men All Paused: Bobbie Adler's Salute to Rocking Pop Classics of the '80s and Life Changes.

Best of all may be the moment when Rob (Tom Gallop) and Ellen (Leigh Allyn Baker) put Leo straight: Will and Grace and Leo, without the buffer zone of Will & Grace, is just Rob and Ellen.

"Long term marriage without the sex," Ellen explained.

"Long term marriage without the sex, Leo," Rob confirmed nodding agreeably.

"That's what I just said, Rob!" Ellen snarls at her husband.

It was hilarious. It wrapped up threads and points you might have feared were forgotten.

It was a classic series finale . . . if, like us, you provided your own finale.

If, however, you merely watched the two hours on NBC (one hour of tribute, one hour of show), you should probably immediately head for the nearest police station -- you were robbed.

You were robbed of laughter, you were robbed of joy.

Someone thought that instead of wrapping up details, we need an "experience." Despite having an hour, the laughs were in short supply -- but then when you time travel forward over eighteen years offering "experience" there's so little
time for anything else.

It was awful.

The ending they aired rejected everything including friendship as it argued that, for Will and Grace to have lives, their friendship had to die.

It was disgusting.

It destroyed everything the show stood for.

So any episode last Thursday that didn't pick up and run with that awful storyline was going to be worth watching.

The first scene dismissed it all as, apparently, as Karen's drug induced fugue.

It was done quickly and humorously.

If that's all the show had managed in its return, that would have been enough.

Instead, it established that you can go home again.

WILL & GRACE was NBC's last great sitcom.  (Leaving aside the series finale, we would argue it was TV's funniest sitcom -- on NBC or anywhere else.)

In the reboot debut, Karen got a job for designer Grace -- redoing the Oval Office.  This as Will was giving lip service to despising a Republican but was secretly involved with him.

It was funny and true to character for both.

Will has so frequently dated guys he shouldn't have (most infamously Patrick Dempsey's TV sports journalist who is gay but deeply in the closet).

Grace has ethics that she will toss to the side and has done so many times it's not even worth citing.

Let's do a negative here, fix the lighting.

Debra Messing's Grace has Cissy Houston's brow fold as a result of bad lighting.

Yeah, Eric McCormack is wearing way too much make up but we're sure this will work its way into an episode when someone wonders whether he's raided George Hamilton's medicine chest and run off with all of Hamilton's bronzer.

But the lighting is the only complaint we have about the show.

About the schedule?

Max Mutchnick and David Kohan, who created WILL & GRACE, attempted to sell NBC on another sitcom to go with WILL & GRACE.

The network passed.

We think that was a mistake.

We've never seen anything on that show that was being prepared.

But we know it was to be shot before a live audience.

NBC has surrounded WILL & GRACE with three single-camera mild-coms.

These are the mild-coms that destroyed NBC's Thursday nights.

GREAT NEWS is in a state of flux and might emerge as a hit after all the current retooling but THE GOOD PLACE and SUPERSTORE have established that there is only a very limited audience for either.

WILL & GRACE brought in over ten million viewers.

GREAT NEWS had five million and THE GOOD PLACE and SUPERSTORE both had less than five million.

This is not how you build a night.

This is beyond bulls**t.

NBC has  learned nothing.

30 ROCK never delivered an audience and failed in syndication and it was the funniest show they had in the TRASH THURSDAY NIGHT scheduling that followed MUST SEE THURSDAY.

MY NAME IS EARL, THE OFFICE and everything else they've tried failed in the ratings and failed in syndication.

Even NETFLIX is finding that its original single-camera sitcoms are streamed less than their own multi-camera sitcoms (DISJOINTED, THE RANCH and FULLER HOUSE).

Is NBC incapable of successful programming because they just won't learn?

This is exactly the problem they had when WILL & GRACE went off eleven years ago.

Last Thursday, WILL & GRACE delivered the numbers NBC needs.

It did so as an island -- awash in mediocrity and unfunny programs.

If NBC were smart, it would axe the weekly episodes and instead do two episodes a week to offer a solid hour of comedy viewers could go for.

Back to the show itself.

Debra Messing has made comments about how Grace is going to be different.

We were concerned.

Grace cares -- as she did before: superficially.

She is honest with emotions and a klutz with reality.

Debra's never been funnier.

We disagree with the actress on so many things but we're glad to see that she's flat out funny.

Eric hasn't been as appealing since he was Julia Louis-Dreyfus' boyfriend on her funniest sitcom (THE NEW ADVENTURES OF OLD CHRISTINE).

Sean Hayes?

Oh, who worries about Sean?  He was funny in SEAN SAVES THE WORLD, he's funny here and stepped back into the role of Jack quicker than any of his co-stars.

Megan Mullally?

She was funny as Tammy on PARKS & RECREATION.  She and her husband Nick Offerman were funny in their recent comedy special for EPIX.

But Megan's never as outrageous and funny as she is when playing Karen.  There's a reason she was a seven time Emmy nominee for playing Karen (and she won two Emmys for the role).

Debra, Eric, Sean and Megan are the finest comedy ensemble today and they were the finest of the 90s and the 00s as well.  And with strong scripts by Kohan and Mutchnick, this is a welcome return.

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