NBC announced on Wednesday that it was bringing back its celebrated comedy “Will & Grace” for 10 episodes during the 2017-18 TV season.
The show’s original cast — Eric McCormack, Debra Messing, Sean Hayes and Megan Mullally — will all return, as will the show’s director, James Burrows, and the show’s creators, Max Mutchnick and David Kohan.
TV is going through a 1990s and early 2000s nostalgia craze, and “Will & Grace” is far from the first show to make a comeback. Netflix’s “Full House” revival, “Fuller House,” has already had two seasons. The streaming service also brought back “Gilmore Girls” in November. Fox brought back “The X-Files” with its original cast, and it was a ratings hit for the network last year. “Twin Peaks” will return in May, with many of the original cast members.
“Will & Grace,” which ran from 1998 to 2006, was a hit and a critical darling — each of the lead cast members won an Emmy for their roles, and the show won the best comedy Emmy in its second season.
NBC is having the strongest year among the big four networks in the most important audience to advertisers: adults under 50. But it is still in the midst of retooling its comedy slate, and “Will & Grace” could give it a shot in the arm whenever the show winds up running in the next season.
Robert Greenblatt, chairman of NBC Entertainment, said in a statement, “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.”
|Bobby Cannavale, left, Debra Messing and Eric McCormack in a 2006 episode of “Will & Grace.” Ms. Messing and Mr. McCormack will reprise their titular roles in a revival of the show. Credit Chris Haston/NBC|
'Will and Grace' Revival Officially a Go at NBC
The 10-episode comedy will bring the original stars and creators back to the network during the 2017-18 broadcast season.
It's official: Will & Grace is returning to NBC.
Less than a month after former co-star Leslie Jordan leaked the news, the network made the formal announcement Wednesday at the Television Critics Association's winter press tour.
The Will & Grace revival will consist of 10 episodes and bring stars Debra Messing, Eric McCormack, Megan Mullally and Sean Hayes back to the network, with the series set to bow during the 2017-18 broadcast season. They are joined by original series creators David Kohan and Max Mutchnick, and all had to ink new deals with Universal Television for the revival. (Hayes has a long-standing relationship with Universal TV, having developed several series for the studio, including NBC's Grimm and Hollywood Game Night.) James Burrows, who directed every episode of the show during its initial run, will return in the same capacity. Kohan and Mutchnick will again serve as showrunners.
"We're thrilled that one of the smartest, funniest and most defining comedies in NBC history is coming back," said NBC Entertainment chairman Robert Greenblatt. "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."
Added Jennifer Salke, president of NBC Entertainment: "We started talking with Mutchnick and Kohan about producing new episodes right after they shot the secret reunion show back in September, and the fact that all four of the original stars were excited about getting back into production is a testament to the joyful experience they had doing nearly 200 episodes for eight seasons. Few things cut through the clutter these days, especially in comedy, and Will & Grace is one of the best."
NBC had been eyeing the Will & Grace limited series revival since September, when the network was riding a wave of nostalgia after stars Messing, McCormack, Mullally and Hayes stepped back into their former characters in an election-themed video that went viral. At the time, deals with the four stars still had to be worked out, as did new pacts with series creators Kohan and Mutchnick, the latter of whom had the idea to do the September election-themed TV revival.
Will & Grace ran for eight seasons and scored 16 Emmy wins out of 83 nominations. All four stars took home Emmy gold for the show about a single woman, her gay roommate and their eccentric friends. In its heyday, the stars earned $600,000 per episode to do the series — on top of points on the backend. The series remains a hit in syndication, but it does not have a streaming home.
In an interview after the election-themed video was released, both Messing — who has a long-standing friendship with NBC boss Bob Greenblatt that dates back to Smash and The Mysteries of Laura — told The Hollywood Reporter that she would "never say never" about a revival.
"Now there are platforms where you can do six or 10 episodes. I don't believe we would ever come back to network [TV] again," said the actress. "I think that the logistics of all of our lives — there would just be way too many things to hammer out. But for something shorter-lived and maybe having the limitations of being on network TV lifted may give us a fun, fresh opportunity because we could be really, really naughty!"
McCormack said there was no official talk of a revival during the two days it took to film the reunion video, though he seemed open to it.
"As for the future, everyone — from Max and David on down — is so protective of the show and how we ended it," he said. "We're very proud of the series finale and the story that told of the break that friendships sometimes take. So to play with that and change that story and change our own stories in life, I'm sure we would all be open to talking about it."
The reunion was Mutchnick's idea. The sets were stored at Emerson College in Boston, where they had been housed for the past 10 years but needed to be moved. He transported the sets to the show's original studio and had them reassembled. Burrows returned to helm the viral video that now has more than 6.6 million views.
"Dave and I are absolutely thrilled about the opportunity to write what Will, Grace, Jack and Karen are thinking about in 2017," said Mutchnick.
For NBC, this marks the network's first new series order for the 2017-18 broadcast season. The series comes as Fox has found ratings and buzz with revivals of The X-Files, 24 and, later this season, Prison Break. (NBC's Heroes revival last season, however, was less fortunate.)
Reboots continue to remain in high demand as broadcast, cable and streaming outlets look for proven IP in a bid to cut through a cluttered scripted landscape that is quickly approaching 500 original series. Key to the remakes is having the original producers involved in some capacity (which Will & Grace clearly has) as more studios look to monetize their existing film libraries.
‘Will & Grace’ To Return To NBC For New Season
The new, ninth season of Will & Grace stems from the surprise election-themed reunion mini-episode released on Sept. 26. Done without NBC’s involvement, it immediately triggered talk of a possible real reunion.
Slowly but surely, producing studio Universal TV was able to secure stars Eric McCormack, Debra Messing, Megan Mullally and Sean Hayes as well as creators/executive producers Max Mutchnick and David Kohan. Veteran director James Burrows, who directed every episode of the show during its initial eight-year run, is on board to direct and executive produce.
“We started talking with Mutchnick and Kohan about producing new episodes right after they shot the secret reunion show back in September, and the fact that all four of the original stars were excited about getting back into production is a testament to the joyful experience they had doing nearly 200 episodes for eight seasons,” said Salke, “Few things cut through the clutter these days, especially in comedy, and Will and Grace is one of the best.”
Reviving broadcast series with the original cast has become a Netflix specialty with Arrested Development, Fuller House and, most recently Gilmore Girls. This is a rare case when the new installment will air on the series’ original network, but NBC had been pretty determined about keeping Will & Grace on the network. The premise for the revival is still being worked out but the new installment is expected to pick up the characters’ stories a decade after the 2006 finale.
Will & Grace is a very successful major network sitcom that ran for eight seasons and sold in off-network syndication where it continues to make a lot of money. By the end of the show’s run on NBC, the four stars commanded very high salaries — reported at the time to be close to $600,000 an episode — in addition to a piece of the series’ lucrative back end. I hear the new installment is being treated as a ninth season, adhering to deals and back-end distribution structure already in place., though, in light of the new economic realities of broadcast TV, compensations are lower than they were in the sitcom’s final hurrah.
In one of the most intriguing 1990s TV pacts, Warner Bros landed domestic distribution of the NBC Studios-produced Will & Grace in exchange to loaning out Mutchnick and Kohan, who had been signed into an exclusive WBTV deal, back to NBC to work on the show. I hear rights had since reverted to NBCUniversal, but WBTV still has Mutchnick under an overall deal and agreed to loan him out for the revival.
Co-creator/executive producer Mutchnick who was behind the Will & Grace reunion mini-episode (you can watch it below), bringing the cast together, and getting the original set re-assembled in the basement of the lot where the NBC series filmed. He and Kohan wrote the script, with additional punch-up work by Will & Grace alums Gary Janetti and Bill Wrubel.
The episode has been a hit, drawing almost 7 million viewers since its debut on the day of the first Presidential debate, September 26. What’s more, unlike some other reunions, the characters on Will & Grace almost picked up where they left off, all of them looking close to the way they did 10 years ago when the series ended, and so did the character dynamic on the show.
“Dave and I are absolutely thrilled about the opportunity to write what Will, Grace, Jack and Karen are thinking about in 2017,” Mutchnick said.
Will & Grace, which aired from 1998-2006 as one of the last tentpoles of NBC’s once venerable Must-See TV comedy lineup, has great legacy — in addition to winning 16 Emmys, including best comedy series, it is credited with paving the way for LGBT characters on TV, featuring the first openly gay lead characters on a primetime network series.
“We’re thrilled that one of the smartest, funniest, and most defining comedies in NBC history is coming back,” said NBC Entertainment Chairman Robert Greenblatt. “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.”
While the Will & Grace ensemble players have had successful post-show careers, there was an opening, with only McCormack tied to a series, Canadian sci-fi drama series Travelers, which will air on Netflix outside of Canada.