Grace [2005]

Will & Grace debuted with a controversial splash because one of its two lead characters is gay--but smart writing and topnotch performances, not politics, have made the show a hit. Two neurotic and sharp-tongued urbanites--gay lawyer Will (Eric McCormack) and straight interior designer Grace (Debra Messing)--delight in their volatile but enduring friendship as they share a sumptuous New York apartment. Sweeping into the mix are Will's unapologetically queeny friend Jack (Sean Hayes) and Grace's wildly eccentric assistant Karen (Megan Mullally). Much like Seinfeld, the humor on Will & Grace springs from self-obsession, petty jealousy, and compulsive interfering in each other's lives--basically, the building blocks of human nature. The show's writers apparently feel compelled to keep the lead characters warm and likeable in the usual sitcom mode (which hardly seems necessary, as McCormack and Messing are naturally engaging). As a result, it's Jack and Karen who get free reign to be truly obnoxious and ridiculous--which, of course, makes them incredibly funny and charismatic. Hayes and Mullally rise to the occasion, ripping through absurd situations and arias of narcissistic wit with dazzling panache. Will & Grace's plots routinely center around scenarios that could feature a married couple or two same-sex roommates: Will and Grace bicker over buying a dog, find their relationship tested by apartment renovations, or discover they're both pursuing the same guy--standard sitcom material that the gay factor gives a clever spin. Though their relationship gets in the way of their sex lives, the two take so much pleasure in each other's company that they can't help but stick together--a surprisingly chaste theme for such a culturally groundbreaking show, but one that Will & Grace's addicted audience undoubtedly appreciates. --Bret Fetzer

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