The TV return of the Jewish American princess

"Will & Grace" set for 12-episode revival this fall.

THE CAST of ‘Will & Grace' (photo credit: COURTESY NBC)
THE CAST of ‘Will & Grace'
(photo credit: COURTESY NBC)
When the TV show Will & Grace first hit the air in 1998, it was radical in many ways. Now, when it returns in 2017, it will have a new set of expectations on its shoulders.
The show was one of the first to feature gay characters in leading roles, and it became a cultural touchstone for LGBT rights in America.
Twenty years later, it is returning for a 12-episode revival this fall, and entering a very different political climate. While gay characters are de rigueur today, the producers of Will & Grace have promised to remain on the edge.
“This groundbreaking series for everything from gay rights to social and political commentary – all disguised as a high-speed train of witty pop culture – is coming back where it belongs,” said NBC’s entertainment chairman, Robert Greenblatt, in an official press release.
And the release of a trailer for the new season last week has everyone talking about the direction the show will take.
Indeed, the revival came about after the original cast reunited last fall for a oneoff political take on the 2016 presidential election.
In a 10-minute clip released before the 2016 election, Will and Grace begged Jack to vote for Hillary Clinton, while Karen was thrilled by the campaign of “one of my oldest friends,” Donald Trump. And the foursome certainly kept things edgy in that skit.
Karen, just returning from a trip to Mar-a- Lago, said: “You know it really is one of the most beautiful places on earth – the azure blue of the sea, the verdant green of the golf course, the mahogany brown of the staff.”
And while the show was groundbreaking for its LGBT characters, Grace’s Jewish heritage was always front and center. Aside from her casual references to her summers in Camp Ramah and her Hanukka traditions, Grace eventually married her boyfriend Leo in a very Jewish ceremony. Many have said the wedding – featuring a huppa and white kippot galore – was the first-ever sitcom ceremony between two Jews on primetime television.
Even the show’s name has Jewish roots – the two creators called it Will & Grace based on a concept of Jewish philosopher Martin Buber’s, who says that one needs the will to go after the presence of God and the grace to receive it.
Both Grace and Debra Messing, the actress who plays her, are Jewish, and Messing used that fact in a recent interview to implore Ivanka Trump to speak up.
Earlier this month, while accepting an award from GLAAD, an LGBT advocacy group, Messing quipped that Ivanka was secretary of state before calling her out for inaction.
“Ivanka, girlfriend, what are you doing? Come on, it’s me Deb, lets talk for a second, one Jewish mother to another,” she said. “It is not enough to simply say that women’s issues are important to you. It’s time to do something.”