Last Thursday four old friends dropped by our place. We haven’t seen each other in over a decade, and as with true friends who grow out of touch for a long period of time we managed to pick up right where we left off. They stayed for about 20 minutes more or less not counting commercial interruptions.
In the late 1990’s I had discovered a little TV show called Will & Grace very much by accident. I was channel surfing and stopped on the show because I thought Sean Hayes, who plays the character Jack McFarland was cute. Within five minutes I realized I was watching a sitcom that featured gay leading characters. This apparently was on purpose, color me impressed. At that time in my life I was in my 20’s. I knew I was gay but I didn’t know how to come out and live openly. As Jack said to Will when he was struggling to “come out” on the show, “You bought the short shorts but you’re afraid to wear them.” I not only bought the short shorts I bought the glittery disco ball shirt and matching jock strap, the hard part was putting them on. Eventually I put them on, then I changed into something more sensible.
To encourage people to vote in the 2016 general election the creators of Will & Grace Max Mutchnick and David Kohan brought the original cast back together for a YouTube election special simply titled “Vote Honey.” That 10 minute video with over seven million views proved so successful that NBC ordered a ninth season of the show after it had been off the air for 11 years. On September 14, 2017, Brooks Barnes wrote for the The New York Times “ Will & Grace Is Back. Will It’s Portrait of Gay Life Hold Up?” Barnes addresses the pros and cons of bringing back this often, at times, politically incorrect sit-com in what he calls “the age of hate.” Eric Marcus, a historian who helms the podcast “Making Gay History,” said of the revival that the “world had moved on” and goes on to say, “I’m left wondering what story lines these characters can possibly explore as middle-aged people that will seem as fresh as the original series.”
Let me answer that question by saying that there are lot’s of story lines that these characters can explore that are fresh and exciting. As a gay man in my 40’s my life is different then it was in my 20’s & 30’s but my life is still exciting and fun and as gay men who are aging with grace (one hopes) we have a whole new set of problems to explore. From the fears that some of us have about growing older to breaking up and finding oneself single and in mid-life. Then there’s the subject of dating much younger guys, that in itself is comedy gold. Or two gay men living in a actual marriage, something that’s either very comforting or very terrifying depending on the couple.
We find with being older and being married that it’s not so easy to break up with someone for shallow reasons or when they annoy us. Just because someone did something annoying like leaving their clipped toe nails in the bathroom sink or if you want to get it on with that twink you met while cruising him in the produce department of Meijer. You remember the one, you thought if you pretended to be vegan you might somehow magically end up back at his place and without your husband finding out. There is actual divorce now and real consequences for being an idiot in a relationship (believe me I know) like the splitting of assets. It’s terrifying to think who would get custody of the iTunes account. Would one of the ex-husbands have to re-purchase everything in it? These are just some of the ridiculous scenarios that we face as older gay men and are perfect fodder for a sitcom.
In the late 1990’s and early 2000’s Will & Grace showed those of us living in the mid-west that it was okay to be who and what we were, and they did it in prime-time on the night of the week when America was watching TV the most. I mean lets face it, Thursday’s were called “Must see TV” for a reason. They showed us we can be fun, flamboyant, laid back, and outrageous. Now 11 years later Will, Grace, Jack and Karen are still showing us that we can be all of those things no matter how old we are.
That my friends is my view from the other side of the lake, October 5th, 2017.
New episodes of ‘Will & Grace’ can be seen Thursday nights starting at 9 Eastern/8 Central Time on NBC.