To say that Will & Grace helped change the landscape of network television is an understatement. In 1998, when the show premiered, there were few gay characters in media, and most were subjected to stereotypical storylines or downright ostracized. The original Will & Grace pilot and subsequent eight season run really paved the way for other stories to be told. Even though the pilot shows its age, there are plenty of little details in the very first Will & Grace episode that you may not have noticed that hint to the show's future success.
Now it's 11 years after the finale, and on Sept. 28, Will & Grace will be back on the small screen. The show is still doing its part to support LGBTG characters on television. At the show's Sept. 23 Tribeca Television Festival panel, Debra Messing, who plays Grace, said that the show will continue to give voice to everyone’s stories — not just the mainstream.
“Back then, "LGB," we stopped at "B." And now 11 years later, the conversation has expanded...," Messing said. "The thing we all committed to one another was that we’re going to be the show that we always were. We’re going to talk about what’s happening now.”
Megan Mullally, who plays Karen, spoke on the show’s trailblazing status. “When Will & Grace was on the air, at least for the first several seasons, there were no other shows that had gay characters. We were standing alone in that regard,” said the actor.
But it's been a long time since Will & Grace blazed that trail. The new revival is the perfect reason to go back to the beginning, and you'll probably find that there are quite a few moments in the pilot that may not have stick out to you the first time around. Here's what you may have missed:
1. The Look Is So 1998
Will’s long hair in the pilot is exemplary of heartthrobs of the time, and Grace’s frosted eyeshadow (even in bed!) is something that you might have seen in YM magazine around the same time. McCormack's hair was chopped into Will's more sensible look by the time the second episode was filmed.
2. It Leaned Hard On Topical References
When the pilot opens, Will and Grace are on the phone, talking dirty about watching ER together. ER was like, the biggest show on television at the time in 1998 (even though it was a few seasons in), and Eriq LaSalle and George Clooney were the babes of the moment. There is also a Sporty Spice reference (anyone miss the Spice Girls?), a Jerry Springer moment, and a Pop-Up Video joke, the latter of which is depressing, because today’s kids will never know the joy of Pop-Up Video. All of this was in only 22 minutes.
3. Sean Hayes Looks Like A Straight-Up Baby
Did you know that Sean Hayes was only 28 when the pilot of Will & Grace came out? Jack McFarland would become his break-out role.
4. The Outfits Are Pretty On Trend
Grace has a uniform of cropped pants and big-ish blouses in the pilot, and aside from her horrific wedding dress (which, to be fair, mullet hems were very a thing at the time), all of her clothing would fit on today’s metropolitan streets. The freshest old outfit Grace wears is a Adidas top/Nike pants situation, which probably just went down a runway. It's always weird to watch something dated and think, "I would wear that."
5. Jack Internet Dated Before It Was A Thing
Will makes a reference to a fling of Jack’s, a “Rudy the Jewish cowboy [he] met on the Internet.” Was there Internet dating in 1998? Didn’t everyone have dial-up? How long would it take to load a chat page that you can actually speak to someone in? Internet dating in today's age is more mainstream, but may still get the occasional raised eyebrow from a Will-type.
6. Will's Apartment Is Probably Affordable (For Him)
Will's apartment may look like one of those where you have to suspend your disbelief that the character could even afford it. But Grace’s business was off the ground-ish, and Will is a lawyer in the pilot, which means that these two are making money and could probably afford the apartment that they eventually live in. It would be about $6,000 a month today, according to People, but they are both making the cash. Finally, some sort of apartment reality on a sitcom.
7. Grace Is Judged For Being "Old" & Unmarried
The pilot features plenty of “Grace is almost 40 and unmarried!” jokes. These continued over the course of the show.
8. There’s A Connection To The O.C. In The Pilot
Gary Grubbs, who played Gordon Bullitt in the fourth and final season of The O.C., has a turn as one of Will’s clients. (He recurs throughout Season 1.) Yes, Grubbs seems to have a TV type.
9. Is That Carrie Bradshaw's House?
There's a clip of a facade of Will's office that looks just like Carrie Bradshaw's apartment from Sex And The City. There's no corroborating this, but it could be that multiple shows used that brownstone on Perry Street for filming, because it is so beautiful.
10. Karen’s Kids' Names Are So Ahead Of The Curve
Karen’s step-kids are named Olivia and Mason, which are popular names for kids today. Olivia was the #3 name for girls in 2016, and Mason was the #7 name for boys in 2016.
11. We Never See Danny's Face
Grace is dating this Danny dude (and almost marries him) in the pilot, and the fact that he has a basic name and basically no face (he high-fives after sex, too) shows that Grace's relationships on the show would always be secondary to her relationship with Will. Foreshadowing!
12. There Were Other Friends?
Jack and Will play cards with two straight guys, and Ellen and Rob come over and play charades in the pilot. The show kept Ellen and Rob and lost pretty much everyone else later, which is good, because the core four of the show was always so much better.
13. Jack Had A Bird & It's A Great Gag
Poor Guapo. He was so stressed out by Jack's constant moving back and forth.
14. Will Speaks Spanish
Karen needs to know how to say "toy store" in Spanish, and Will just... knows. You wouldn't think he would, but he does.
15. Karen's Voice Is Different
Megan Mullally didn't have that signature Karen Walker voice in the pilot! It's maybe an eighth of what it was. The biggest part of her character was missing! Travesty.
16. Will And Grace Don’t Mince Words
After Will tells Grace that Danny isn’t marriage material, Grace says, “You want me to be alone, Will, like you!” before storming off. Will & Grace really embraced how close the friends were from the onset, which is nice to see. No need to develop a bond when the bond is deep enough to allow one friend to say something like that to the other.
Will & Grace was a groundbreaking show for network television in 1998, and now that it’s being revived, we’ll see which walls it breaks down in 2017. The pilot may have faded in your memory, but the impact has been lasting.
Additional reporting by Sage Young