7.23.2005

the gimmicks of will and grace

there was a time when i thought that will and grace might be the funniest show on television. the dialogue was snappy, it never took itself too seriously, and the performances by megan mullaly as karen and sean hayes as jack were among the best delivered in sitcom history.

however, the past three years have seen a precipitious decline in both the quality of the show and the ratings (although it seems that the emmys disagree with at least the declining quality part, by nominating them for 15 awards). thank god this is its last season, because their latest ratings gimmick, performing the season premiere live, reeks of the desperation of a has-been's futile attempt to stay relevant. the past ten years have seen other shows use this gimmick, dating all the way back to roc (remember, the fox show with charles s. dutton), ER, and everyone loves raymond. if my memory serves me correctly, the live "event" only resulted in slight upticks in ratings, and almost no critical buzz. in other words, nobody thought that it was interesting or neat that these shows did their things live except for the hardcore fans. granted, there may be a sizable hardcore audience, but usually the shows and the networds try to position this as something that everyone should take note of, because after all, as the typical PR copy goes, "anything can happen on live tv!" but as with the examples listed above, nothing really much happens on live tv. even worse, for those of us on the west coast, it's never live because of the time zone difference. i really don't see if there's any real point in the live broadcast of the primetime television program. if any of you have any guesses, please feel free to leave them in the comments section.

anyways, what really makes this look desperate for will and grace is that it is a show that almost entirely relies on gimmicks, especially the last three seasons. the biggest gimmick that they're known for is the special guest. from imdb's cast listing, i counted 48 separate appearances by "special guest stars", and that's not counting extended appearances by people like woody harrelson and harry connick, jr., who were worked in over the course of one or more season. the occasional special guest star works every now and again, but to have outside actors come in as often as will and grace does to try and boost ratings, seems like they're trying to make up for the lack of ideas if you ask me. the special "live" episode seems like trying to create hype around a series whose ratings have been flagging since friends went off the air.

the other gimmick that i want to mention is the general concept of gayness on television. i'm not saying that gay people shouldn't be on television, but in reality, it's still something that's rather novel and often used as a novelty to drive up ratings, witness the spate of lesbian kisses on shows like roseanne, the O.C., etc, etc. will and grace it seems is portrayed as some kind of landmark for television in that it one of the first television shows to center around gay culture.

however, i don't think that it's crossed over into "pioneer" territory yet. there are still very few gay characters on television, and when they are on television, they are there to provide either scandal or to be the butt of jokes. i should briefly note that i'm only talking about non-reality network programming, obviously shows like queer eye, and the L-word are doing fine over on cable.

anyways, while i don't think that the subtext of will and grace is homophobic, i have noticed that the show relies heavily on some stereotypes of gay people (will is obsessively neat, grace, the troubled single girl, as a faghag, and jack, being flamboyant and promiscuous) that typically would be considered offensive. sure, the show provides insight into other facets of gay culture that are normally dismissed by our usual homophobic dialogue, but the show still doesn't necessarily put its use of stereotypes in context of the greater picture of a largely homophobic culture that we have here in the US. unfortunately, i don't have that many gay friends, and the ones that i do have, i don't feel like beating them down with asking them to be the spokesperson for the LGBT community. if any of my cock-loving brothers and vagina-loving sisters that are reading this have any insight, please let me know inthe comments section whether you think that will and grace is not nearly as progressive as it purports to be or whether the show is a good first step in the right direction.cuz personally, i find myself very uncomfortable with some of the types of jokes that they make. is it one of those deals where it's ok for black people to use the n-word (which i understand), but that still makes me a little uncomfortable (you know, when like you're singing along to an N.W.A. song and you don't even say the n-word when you're by yourself).


this show is about gay people? i never would have known from this publicity shot!

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