Friday, August 28, 2015

Will & Grace and the Importance of Not Forgetting What You're There to Do

Many people think of Will & Grace as a show that was groundbreaking for LGBT rights. It's not a bad legacy to have and not illegitimate either. Will & Grace normalized the gay experience while also being unapologetic in it's portrayal of gay characters (even if they came off as stereotypical at the time). However, a more fitting remembrance would be that of a perfect sitcom.

Let me be clear, by perfect sitcom I don't at all mean the best sitcom. That is of course subjective and usually a title taken by Cheers, Friends or Seinfeld among many other top shows. However, a "perfect" sitcom is one that doesn't forget what it's there to do, make people laugh. Shows like Friends and Parks & Rec often forget this, they sometimes find themselves relying heavily on sentimentality and extensive character arcs. It doesn't make them bad shows or cheapen their quality, however it bends their genre to their own whims instead of succeeding in its established guidelines. And while this may seem like a narrow set of requirements, such strict guidelines can actually allow for a more polished product, especially for novice television creators. It allows them to serve the genre, and more importantly their audience, when creating. And teaches them not to allow their voice and own creative desires have precedence over what best serves their characters, story and audience. It's the same reason writers rooms exist, to create an environment that values input over personal voice.

Will & Grace, partly because of it's groundbreaking content, exemplifies this best. It would have been easy to create a show that was specific to the creators', David Kohan and Max Mutchnick, voice and experience. It would have also failed. To create a show that could only speak to the gay experience of two men would fail to reach a substantial audience. Instead they decided to serve a comedic voice, to put comedy over perspective, to fit into a genre so they could tell their story instead of pushing their voice. It's what keeps the consistently funny, while shows like Cheers and Friends have ebbs and flows to their series run, partly due to their extensive character arcs. Insread Will & Grace focuses on short storylines and characters arcs which the put the characters into situations that explain their character as opposed to relationships. It also allows for comedy to take precedence over the easier alternative of sentimentality. Will & Grace knows what it's there to do, make people laugh and serve the audience over the experience of the creator

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