Monday, 9 May 2011

Pilot Me: Will & Grace

I’ve been a bit unwell as of late, so I’ve neglecting blogging duties and such. But, I’m back with another episode of Pilot Me wherein we look at the pilot episodes of television shows and assess their journey.
Just recent Nathaniel (of The Film Experience) was saying how strange it is watching current sitcoms with laugh-tracks and while thinking of how much I agree with the sentiment I couldn’t help but think of those 90s sitcoms. The 90s, for me, seem to be the era of the half-hour primetime sitcom (Friends, Frasier, Everybody Loves Raymond, 3rd Rock from the Sun, Mad About You) and though it’s Friends that would top my personal list I feel a bigger affinity for the pilot of Will & Grace.

I caught two new shows this season Boardwalk Empire and The Big C but it wasn’t until they had finished their entire season that I made a point of checking them out, so I’d already had a vague notion of what they were about. I can’t remember if audiences knew that Will & Grace was about a gay man and a straight woman or not because the pilot opens with that concept of Will and Grace as a coupe – something the entire series kept referring to.
I love that first opening shot of the apartment building. Those external shots make me feel so nostalgic, they immediately move inside to the conversation.
Will: “What are you doing?”
Grace: “Hanging out.”
Will: “Come over.”
Grace: “Will...I can’t.”
Will: “Come on, Grace. You know you want to.”
Grace: “Of course I want to, but –”
Will: “It’s gonna be a good one. I can feel it.”
Grace: “It’s always good. Still, hmm-hmm”
Will: “If you’re not gonna come over you want me to – talk you through it?”
 Grace: “It’s tempting, but I think I can watch ER here.”
Remember how all those 90s comedies used to make use of that same concept, leading us into a direction and turning it into something else – hence the comedy? And yet, it never used to feel tired and hackneyed. I love the self-referential nature of NBC here where the two are watching another NBC show ER. Remember when that was a monster hit on the television?
When I think of Will & Grace retrospectively the shining light that is Karen Walker hogs my memories so that I tend to forget how good the rest of the cast is. True, Will and Grace are not as kookily dynamic as Jack and Karen but their bond is a beautiful thing to watch – hence the title. Of course, despite the title it’s all about the quartet so it’s not long before we’re introduced to the incomparable Jack McFarlane.
Regardless of actual opinion on the character, Hayes performance is faultless. He’s such a good actor here, and I love Jack when he’s in his “Broadway” register (which, to be honest, is most of the time). I love how he’s singing “A Room Without Windows” all accompanied by his ridiculous antics
 It’s weird, I remember Jack as being terribly flamboyant – and he is but Hayes is never annoyingly over-the-top. It’s as if he’s playing Jack with this steady trend of obliviousness like he doesn’t know how hilarious he is. The main arc of the episode concerns Grace’s engagement and almost wedding and it’s buttressed by Jack’s attempts to move into Will while his apartment gets painted.
I love that shot to the right, there. Jack and his bird – Guapo. It’s a theme that the rest of the series will assert, Will occasionally taking Jack for granted but even when they hit on these potential touchy issues the hilarity is stark.

Remember Harlan?
He didn’t return for the following seasons, but he was a constant in season 1 as Will’s major client.
But, what’s a Will & Grace memorial without Karen? Grace’s assistant, for no logical reasons. I love her entrance, just as Grace says “She feels working keeps her down to earth we meet this psycho...
Karen: “My driver had another bronchial incident, it was disgusting. I had to roll down the partition.”
No one is more clueless than Karen while still managing to retain semblance of wisdom, and Megan Mullally is just perfect here – like this titbit here, when Will tells Karen to let Grace fire her.
 Karen: “Grace, tell Will to redirect his anger at his mother where it belongs.”
Karen and Will have a volatile relationship, but I love seeing McCormack and Mullally together. I always wished they had more scenes together.

It’s all about setting up the series, like Will and Grace’s insane love for Pyramid
Or Karen’s terrible Spanish with Rosario
Grace’s engagement lasts all of ten minutes but as things go on this show, it’s all an excuse for the eponymous pair remember their love for each other.
That closing where Grace says how thankful she is for Will is always charming, just like the entire series. I miss the 90s.

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