18 Limited Gracel Series 15
Will & Grace is an American television sitcom created by Max Mutchnick and David Kohan. Set in New York City, the show focuses on the friendship between best friends Will Truman (Eric McCormack), a gay lawyer, and Grace Adler (Debra Messing), a straight interior designer. The show was broadcast on NBC from September 21, 1998, to May 18, 2006, for a total of eight seasons, and returned to NBC on September 28, 2017, and ended on April 23, 2020. Will & Grace has been one of the most successful television series with gay principal characters.
18 Limited Gracel Series 15
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During its original run, Will & Grace was filmed in front of a live studio audience (most episodes and scenes) on Tuesday nights, at Stage 17 in CBS Studio Center. A long-running legal battle between both the original executive producers and creators and NBC took place between 2003 and 2007. Will and Grace's apartment was put on display at the Emerson College Library, donated by series creator Max Mutchnick. When the set was removed in 2014, rumors came up about a cast reunion, but the actors involved denied that such a reunion was planned, explaining it was merely being moved.
NBC went to sitcom director James Burrows to see what he thought of the homosexual subject matter and if an audience would be interested in the show. Burrows liked the idea and when he first read the script in November 1997, he decided that he wanted to direct it. Burrows said, "I knew that the boys had captured a genre and a group of characters I have never read before." The filming of the pilot began on March 15, 1998. The actors behind Will and Grace, Eric McCormack and Debra Messing, were positive about the series and they thought it had the potential to last long on television. McCormack said: "When shooting was finished that night, Debra and I were sitting on the couch and looking at each other and I said, 'We're gonna be on this set for a while.' And we sort of clasped hands, but we didn't want to say anything beyond that and jinx it."
The part of Will Truman went to Eric McCormack, who was the first actor cast in the series. Having played gay characters several times in his career, McCormack did not have a problem with it and thought his character could become a "poster boy for some gay movement", in the way that DeGeneres became a spokesperson with her character. Sean Hayes was invited to audition for Jack after an NBC casting executive saw him in a role in the indie gay romance film Billy's Hollywood Screen Kiss. Even though Hayes enjoyed the script when he read it, he threw it away and decided not to try out for the audition until he was sent the script again. Megan Mullally initially auditioned for the role of Grace Adler, but admitted that she did not want to audition for the part of Karen. By contrast, Debra Messing, with whom Mullally had first worked on Ned and Stacey, was initially unsure if she wanted to play the role of Grace. The last actor to be cast, she later admitted that director Burrows was the reason for doing Will & Grace.
With the release of the ninth season of the series, NBC also released Will & Grace: After Party, an aftershow hosted by Kristin dos Santos. The guests of the aftershow are composed of cast and crew from the series, including David Kohan, Max Mutchnick, and the series' stars, to discuss the development and behind-the-scenes production of the series. The series premiered on NBC.com on September 29, 2017.
In December 2003, in the midst of the series' sixth season, executive producers and creators David Kohan and Max Mutchnick sued NBC and NBC Studios. Alleging that the network sold the rights to the series in an attempt to keep profits within the NBC family, Kohan and Mutchnick felt that they were cheated out of considerable profits because the network did not shop the show to the highest bidder. Another allegation against the network was that during the first four seasons of the series, the studio licensed the rights for amounts that were insufficient for covering production costs, thus leading to extraordinarily large production deficits. Three months later, NBC filed a countersuit against Kohan and Mutchnick stating that the co-creators were expected to act as an independent third party in the negotiations between NBC and its subsidiary, NBC Studios (since subsumed into Universal Television).
With a pending lawsuit and production beginning on other projects, Kohan and Mutchnick were absent on the Will & Grace set for most of its final seasons. They wrote the season 4 episode, "A Buncha White Chicks Sittin' Around Talkin'" and did not return to the writers' seat until the series finale four years later. Three years after NBC's countersuit and one year after the series ended, the legal battle between NBC and Kohan and Mutchnick ended in 2007 when all parties agreed on a settlement, with the series creators being awarded $49 million of the $65 million they sued for.
Will & Grace entered off-network syndication in 2002, and remained in local syndication until 2008. In 2002 WGN America acquired the cable rights to air the series, where it aired until 2005 when Lifetime Television acquired the cable rights to the series. After eight years and the expiration of Lifetime's contract, the rights to the series were picked up by WeTV and Logo TV in 2013, with both eventually letting the rights lapse.
The streaming service Hulu later picked up the show, in anticipation of the show's revival in 2017, with the entire series also carried on NBC.com. Around the same time, NBC's classic subchannel network Cozi TV picked up the series and airs it four times nightly, and promotes it as "The Original Series" to avert confusion with the current-day run.
The series finale was heavily promoted by NBC, and McCormack, Messing, Mullally and Hayes appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show and The Today Show to bid farewell, on May 10 and 18, respectively. NBC devoted a two-hour block in its primetime schedule on May 18, 2006, for the Will & Grace send-off. An hour-long series retrospective, "Say Goodnight, Gracie", featuring interviews with the cast, crew, and guest stars, preceded the hour-long series finale. Series creators and executive producers Kohan and Mutchnick, who had not served as writers since the season 4 finale, penned the script for "The Finale". Regarding the finale, Mutchnick stated, "We wrote about what you want to have happen with people you love... All the things that matter in life, they end up having."
Will & Grace has been nominated for 83 Primetime Emmy Awards, winning 18 of them, including once for Outstanding Comedy Series in 2000. McCormack, Messing, Hayes, and Mullally each won at least one Emmy Award for their respective performances, becoming one of four live-action sitcoms, along with All in the Family, The Golden Girls and Schitt's Creek, where all the principal actors have won at least one Emmy Award. Mullally also won a second time for her performance in 2006, a year when Will & Grace was nominated for 10 Emmys for its final season. The year before, the show had garnered 15 nominations, tied with Desperate Housewives as the series receiving the most nominations. This was almost an all-time record; the two shows were second behind The Larry Sanders Show, with 16 nominations in 1996.
With three each, both Hayes and Mullally held the record of winning the most Screen Actors Guild Awards for the categories Best Performance by an Actor in a Comedy Series and Best Performance by an Actress in a Comedy Series, respectively, for their roles in Will & Grace; however, Tina Fey went on to tie with Mullally and Alec Baldwin went on to surpass Hayes, both for their roles on the series 30 Rock. Will & Grace has won several GLAAD Media Awards for its advocacy of the gay community. Despite 30 total nominations, Will & Grace never won a Golden Globe Award.
In May 2012, during a Meet the Press interview with host David Gregory, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden cited the series as an influence in American thinking regarding LGBT rights, saying, "I think Will & Grace did more to educate the American public than almost anything anybody has ever done. People fear that which is different. Now they're beginning to understand." In the same interview, Biden stated that he was "absolutely comfortable" with same-sex marriage, a statement which was followed on May 9 by President Barack Obama's speaking in favor of it. The day after Obama's statement, series co-creator Mutchnick later told CBS This Morning that Biden had spoken similar words at a private function which Mutchnick and his husband had attended two weeks prior to Biden's statement, although a White House official was cited by CBS This Morning's Bill Plante as asserting that the Meet the Press interview was not a "trial balloon" for the statement. Both Mutchnick and Kohan praised Biden's statement, but were critical of Obama's stance on marriage during the time between Biden's and Obama's statements.
Universal Studios Home Entertainment currently holds the rights to the series in Region 1. On August 29, 2017, Universal re-released season 1 of the series on DVD in a 3-disc set. The re-release carries over all bonus features from the original Lionsgate release. It is unknown whether or not Universal will re-release the rest of the series.
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