‘Will and Grace’ and the marriage between comedies and New York
I’ve got an idea for television’s next comedy sensation: Quirky, attractive, primarily white singles kind of struggling — but more often drinking — in New York (read: Manhattan or Brooklyn, NOT the Bronx). Now, if this sounds like every sitcom or comedy-drama ever made, that’s because it is. The image of the college-educated, 20-something trying to “make it” in New York is so ingrained in the American psyche that it has basically become the definition of what it means to be in your 20s. This relationship between New York and the comedy genre has birthed so many nearly-identical offspring that any show with these characteristics must be exceptionally special to pique my interest. “Will and Grace,” currently midway through the second season of its series reboot, is not proving to be interesting enough to distinguish itself from the pack of New York-centric content.
“Will and Grace” is like the middle child of the New York comedy — respected enough, but clearly holding onto the past in the hopes of one day being discussed in the same breath as the “golden child” of the New York comedies, “Friends.”
It would be unfair to make the claim that “Will and Grace” does not depart from the formulaic cliche of the “straight attractive singles” comedy, as two of the central characters are gay men. Sadly, the freshness stops there. Watching this show feels like watching off-brand “Friends” or “Sex and the City,” or the millions of other shows like it. There’s the proverbial laugh track for lines that can be funny, depending on who you ask. The environment looks flat because you know they’re shooting it in a studio, and worst of all, the characters are almost completely unrecognizable.
That’s the thing about New York comedies: The person they are trying to portray doesn’t really exist, and if they do they certainly don’t have nearly as much free time as the characters in these shows do. The honest truth is that being young and single in New York, or any big city, does not guarantee that you will live a quirky romanticized socially active life. It’s more mundane, sleep-deprived and lonely than the media portrays. Yet, comedy can be found in this bleakness and real genuine humor can be made from these realities. However, in shows like “Will and Grace,” this humor is nowhere to be found. “Will and Grace” instead clings to a fantasy where studio apartments in Manhattan grow on trees.
The relationship between New York and comedy isn’t a bad thing. There is a sliver of truth to the fantasy, but I just wish the content wasn’t so misleading. As I progress through college, imagining my life after school is becoming more and more pertinent. It’s not an easy transition for anybody, and right now, televised comedy is only building expectations that I know will let me down.