NBC Universal Television Group President Jeff Zucker likes to call “The Apprentice” the show that changed his network and reassured advertisers that even without “Friends” and “Frasier,” NBC is still capable of staying afloat. While the Trump-fest remains anchored on Thursday nights this fall, it’s clear that perhaps no show on NBC is under more pressure than “Will & Grace.”
After years of drafting off of the “Friends” juggernaut, “Will & Grace” has become the senior comedy on a network that doesn’t seem to care much about making viewers laugh.
The show enters its seventh season as one of only three scripted, live-action comedies on NBC’s schedule (along with “Scrubs” and spin-off “Joey”), and even though every member of the core cast has won an Emmy, the show will have to prove itself once again.
Meeting with reporters last month at the semiannual Television Critics Association, the cast and creative team on “Will & Grace” could only answer a few softball questions about favorite guest stars and Debra Messing’s new baby before talk turned to the challenges of the new season.
“I don’t feel any pressure,” insists co-star Sean Hayes. “I think a lot of pressure is on ‘Joey,’ fortunately and unfortunately. But I think because of our consistent quality, we have don’t to worry about it, if I do say so myself.”
With fewer and fewer traditional multi-camera comedies on the network rosters, “Will & Grace” is beginning to look like an anachronism, a strange luddite comedy when the landscape seems to demand narrative innovation like “Arrested Development” or the FX-style hybridization of “Nip/Tuck” or “Rescue Me.”
“From day one, we’ve had an old-fashioned sitcom in terms of its structure, in terms of James Burrows directing every episode with four cameras, four characters,” explains Eric McCormack. “But what we do in the midst of that is not old-fashioned. I think it’s surprising and new.”
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Credit: Daniel Fienberg, MSN Entertainment