Will and Grace: Season Two
In recent years television series have been pushing the envelope, trying to create an edgier show in order to better compete with the cable networks. A long held taboo for network television has always been homosexuality. Will and Grace, no matter what you may think about the show, have been ground breaking in this area. One thing that struck me while reviewing the DVD of season two, there was a definite homage to the physical comedy series we grew up with such as I Love Lucy. Instead of Ricky, Lucy, Ethel and Fred we have Will (Eric McCormack), Grace (Debra Messing), Jack (Sean Hayes) and Karen (Megan Mullally). While much of the humor is based on urbane banter the highlights of each episode is without a doubt the way this cast can use outrageous physical comedy. Will is a lawyer and is gay, not in the over the top, flamboyant stereotypical manner, than is left for his friend Jack. Grace is a repressed, neurotic young Jewish woman whose series counterpoint is Karen, her rich, drunken assistant. While the show focuses on the co-dependant relationship between Will and Grace the real contrasts are to be had between the two leads and the pair of breakout ancillary characters. Of course Lucy was never encountered some of the situations these four find themselves in. For example in one episode Grace is trying to impress man she went to high school with by wearing a water bra. Naturally it springs a leak spraying all over.
With the second season the show had enough of a following to enable them to get some notable guest stars. Debbie Reynolds appears as Graceís mother, Veronica Cartwright as Jackís. Sydney Pollack is also featured as Graceís father. Gregory Hines also joined the cast as Willís new employer. The addition of these talented actors does manage to get the show out of the one joke monotony many sit-coms are prone to. While most episodes are stand alone there are several arcs that run through the season. One involves Jackís marriage of convenience to Karenís maid Rosario (Shelley Morrison) in order to obtain a green card. Growing up in New York City I know these characters, some are perfect representations of friends of mine. As such, some of the humor consists of insider New York jokes, little details of life here that only a New Yorker can really appreciate. Even though, the humor is broad enough that most people will not be able but to have a laugh or two.
This is a cast that works well together. Megan Mullally and Sean Hayes even garnered the coveted Emmy award for their portrayals. There is chemistry between not only the main characters but apparently everyone that steps foot on the stage. With so much dependency on physical humor you really need a cast familiar with each other. The timing is impeccable. Each pratfall is timed to perfection; the cadence of the dialogue is more like a well honed Broadway show than a weekly television series. Although the jokes center around three main topics, Will and Jack are gay, Grace is insecure and Karen is a lush, the presentation brings the material above what a lesser cast could have ever hoped to achieve. Typical of a modern American sit-com there is little in the way of character growth here. There is a formula that works and the writers stick to it. In this season the acting talent of the cast is restricted by this, they can do better if given half a chance. The hallmark of an actor is the ability to work with what you have and present the best you can. The cast does do this. They are in a silly show and they donít appear to take matters too seriously, it does look like they had fun making this show.
In the production of this show the fact that it is set in one of the most diverse cities in the world is largely overlooked. As mentioned before there are some New York based jokes but a show that earns what this one does for the network, they could have sprung for some exterior scenes. This would have brought in a lot to the production and broaden the basis for the jokes. The director of this season, James Burrows has an impressive resume of television comedy. From the Mary Tyler Moore show to Friends, Cheers and Night Court this man has shown he can make the most out of a script and an ensemble cast. He seems to know when to let the actors take over and ply their craft. Burrows has the ability to serve two masters, the studio executives (of which he is one) and the viewers. He can tread the line of what is acceptable to Middle America while presenting a show that can bring a laugh to almost anyone. Even though the series often finds itself in a bit of a rut I did find myself laughing and after all isnít that the purpose of a comedy?
The DVD could have been better. For one thing the box notes ĎFull of Extrasí. Well, NBC must think that a few minutes of scene cuttings juxtaposed and set to music qualify as ĎFullí there is really nothing substantial in the way of added material. While many shows are providing commentaries and behind the scenes footage this set is pretty much plain vanilla. It would have been interesting to watch the cast put a show together, to see how they relate off screen but alas none of this is presented. The audio is pretty standard two channel stereo. The full screen video is clear and free of defect but there is nothing here that you canít get with a TiVo and a few hours recording reruns off of cable. The twenty four episodes (including the two part season finale) are spread out over four discs. There is a simplistic menu that does allow the option to view an individual episode or watch the whole disc at once. Each episode is on a separate DVD title with no chapter stops. Unfortunately, the laugh track is included. For die hard fans this will be a welcomed addition to your collection.