By Tim Parks
A FOND FAREWELL
On May 18th, “Will & Grace” will become a part of television history, going down in the books as the longest running sitcom to feature gay characters. After eight seasons, it is leaving the air on its own volition, there are no angry torch wielding villagers decrying its demise. And, that’s the show’s strong suit, you don’t need to be a card carrying ’mo to enjoy the shenanigans of Will, Grace, Jack & Karen-the folks in the Back 40 are laughing with us, not at us.
Since its debut in 1998, the show has straddled and then crossed the line with its bawdy humor, with hardly an eye batted from the powers-that-be at NBC. They even managed to secure a little on air lip lock that didn’t raise the ire of the aforementioned powers, censors and or conservative groups.
For some reason, “W & G” has constantly flown under the gaydar, and those critical of the show would argue that boils down to it never crossing certain unspoken lines drawn in the sand; that the show builds upon age old stereotypes of “the gays.” Sure, both Will & Jack have never had a longer than a-in- the-blink-of-an-eye-boyfriend; and yes, the show doesn’t tackle a lot of the pressing issues of the day for entire episode arcs, and uses them as reference points for punch lines. But that’s the point of the show; it’s a sitcom here to make us laugh. So, take that you Negative Nancys!
Personally, I have been a fan of the show since the get go and will miss it being a Thursday night staple. The only thing I will not miss are people telling me I remind them of Jack!
So here’s a look at where the cast has been and where they are going to, very full circle, no?
Canuck Eric McCormack must have been destined to play it gay; his resume is peppered with such throwaway gay porn titles as: “The Boys from Syracuse,” “Street Legal,” “Neon Riders,” “Night Visitors,” and an episode of “Highlander” entitled “Manhunt.” His highest visibility before “W &G” came in 1996’s “Townies,” the Molly Ringwald starring vehicle where he played Scott for 4 episodes. Then he had his pick of working with “weight challenged” actresses; appearing on Kirstie Alley’s “Veronica’s Closet” and “Ally McBeal” with Calista Flockhart.
Debra Messing is no stranger to ampersands. Her biggest pre-Grace profile was on Fox’s 1995-1997 comedy “Ned & Stacey”-wonder who she played? (And, I was not referring to her physical profile being big; you know like when Grace suddenly developed a muumuu fetish, in a failed attempt to hide her real-life pregnancy a few seasons back). Before she was the epitome of the neurotic New Yorker, she took on The Big Apple by backing the badge on “NYPD Blue” for 3 episodes, and appeared on 2 episodes of “Seinfeld.” And does anyone remember her turn in the sci-fi series “Prey,” which lasted for 13 episodes on ABC in ’98? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller…
Sean Hayes’ first acting gig was as Sammy in A&P, which included such colorful supporting players as “Queenie” and “Hi Ho Lady.” Sounds like a great place to cut his teeth for his role as Jack McFarland! In 1998’s Billy’s Hollywood Screen Kiss saw Hayes as the titular Billy, a gay photographer, who yearned for the type of Hollywood Screen Kiss that typifies straight cinema. But, Billy wanted to put his money where his mouth was, or at least wanted to be, on his allegedly straight crush, Gabriel.
With her unmistakable vocal intonations as Karen Walker, it’s no surprise that Megan Mullally was tapped to portray a grown up Pebbles Flintstone in 1993’s “I Yabba-Dabba Do!” No surprise, eh? I would have thought they would have gone with “Yabba-Dabba Do Me!” Perhaps this is where her inspiration to refer to Will as Wilma was born? A veteran of the acting wars since the 80’s, Mullally earned her stripes as a call girl in Risky Business, and as Demi Moore’s slutty friend, Pat, in About Last Night (and you’d be hard pressed to recognize her, what with a lighter hair color and poodle perm!).
As for her television acting chops, let’s just say she seasoned them with a sprinkling of one night stands on “China Beach,” “Wings,” “Frasier,” “Seinfeld,” and even on Messing’s “Ned & Stacey.” Plus, she locked wits with Angela Lansbury in an episode of “Murder, She Wrote” entitled “Coal Miner’s Slaughter.” Sounds positively riveting! Also like her cohort McCormack, she had a few gay sounding jobs in the interim like, “Queens Logic,” “Rainbow Drive” and “Fish Police.”
Rosario (Shelley Morrison) was most notably a fixture in a habit on “The Flying Nun” as Sister Sixto-say that fast six times in a row! Maybe that should be the new litmus to determine if someone of questionable sexuality is truly family, I just bet there’d be a few extra s’s that were previously undetected.
DO YOU KNOW WHERE YOU’RE GOING TO?
So, when the curtain comes-a-closin’ for the “Will & Grace” cast-what will they do and where will they go? Well, Megan Mullally already has a new show lined up. The aptly named “Megan Mullally Show” is a talk show set to air in September. Girl, don’t pull a Danza!
Sean Hayes has a comedic movie called Simon Says in the works. A wee bit o’ career advice for Hayes; he should avoid the Matt LeBlanc/“Joey” route and not spin his character off into his own show, as typecasting will most likely be plaguing him as it is. He has amassed a few executive producer credits on shows like “Situation: Comedy,” so there is always that aspect to help him keep a low profile, should he choose to.
Eric McCormack has two films in the can, or maybe he’d rather have them out here (all you European Vacation fans got that one!). Stand by love, in which McCormack stars alongside Helena Bonham Carter, is about two exes reunited on a transatlantic fight, err flight. Free Enterprise 2 is a follow up to 1998’s Free Enterprise-aren’t you glad I’m here to explain these things?
By far, Debra Messing has the most on her plate, career wise. She’s wrapped up three flicks all due out in 2006. Open Season is an animated flick that finds Messing’s voice being lent to a forest ranger by the name of Beth-so she’ll finally be playing a lesbian? Then there’s Purple Violets, in which she plays second fiddle to Selma Blair. Lucky You, a Vegas set movie involving a poker tournament, in which she plays second fiddle to Drew Barrymore. Hmm, I believe I am sensing a theme here, and that’s probably a good thing since her 2005 flick, The Wedding Date, didn’t exactly solidify her as a bankable leading lady. But, these new batch of flicks do showcase her strength as a strong ensemble player.
CUT. PRINT. THAT’S A WRAP!
While it is sad to see a favorite show go off the air, there is solace in the fact that this Emmy winning hit has been embraced by a wide audience. Besides, it can serve as a launching pad for more queer themed shows to blast off. Still not consoled? Well, here’s a non-sequitur salve of upcoming stuff and thangs to put on the wound.
Break out the shoulder pads and prepare a smack down in a cement pond as “Dynasty Reunion: Catfights & Caviar” brings together John Forsythe, Linda Evans, Joan Collins, Al Corley (Steven #1), Catherine Oxenberg (Amanda #1), Gordon Thomson (Adam #1) and Pammy Sue Martin (Fallon #1) to reminisce about the 80’s prime time sudser. Apparently, John James, Michael Nader and Heather Locklear thought the idea was a #2, as they are not participating.
Kathy Griffin’s new special, “Strong Black Woman,” is scheduled to air on May 9th on Bravo; which is also the home to the second season of her reality series “My Life on the D-List” on June 6th.
How ‘bout some music news to soothe your last gay nerve? The buzz on the new Pet Shop Boys CD, Fundamental, due out at the end of May, is hailing it as their best in ten years. Erasure is getting naked, well stripped down is more like it, on the just released Union Street, an acoustic reworking of some of their songs. Now that she’s put down the Ho’s Ho’s down long enough to pick up a microphone, a back in shape Janet Jackson is readying Twenty Years Old (a nod to Control’s 20th anniversary) for a September release; and the first single is dropping in May-just like her post Super Bowl scandal and Damita Jo underselling pounds.
See, when one gay door closes, others open-it’s the bathhouse philosophy of life. Until next time, that’s all the news that’s fit to print.