NBC's Will and Grace, a new television program that will debut this fall, appears to be based on a standard sitcom scenario. The male and female leads are portrayed as best friends who are not dating each other, but appear perfect for one another. In sitcoms of the past, the two leads wind up realizing their everlasting love for each other and get married.
However, Will and Grace's relationship alters the standard sitcom formula in at least one major way, because Will is gay.
Will will be the first gay male lead character in a prime-time series. Ellen, of course, was the first lesbian lead character.
Why is Will and Grace appearing so soon after Ellen was cancelled? Is it merely the perogative of a different network? The fact that it features a gay man instead of a lesbian?
Actor Eric McCormack, who plays Will, stated, "Ellen was about a woman discovering the 'new her,' so the show couldn't help but be in-your-face. This (show) is about guys who have been gay for 15 years, 20 years. They've been out for a long time, they're comfortable with it. . .so we don't have to make an issue of it."
Director James Burrows, famous for NBC's hit shows "Cheers" and "Frasier," said that "Ellen" is "more of a proselytizing gay show. Will and Grace is about a relationship between friends where one just happens to be gay."
Some have accused the show of trying to "soft-sell" gay material. McCormack even admits, "I think you can actually watch the pilot and miss that he's gay."
So far, there have been no objections voiced by gay rights groups. Joan Garry, Executive Director of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), stated, "Any time you put a gay character in a leading role in a TV show it's historic in its own right." She said that the "smart and savvy" show "reflects the fact that lesbians and gay men are a part of the fiber of society."
Media Resources: Nando.net and Reuters - September 17, 1998