If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
That seems to be the philosophy behind the rebooted version of Will & Grace, which premieres Thursday on NBC. Whether or not it was necessary to revive the series, which originally went off the air in 2006 after eight seasons on NBC, is debatable. But one thing is certain: Fans who loved the original version will be relieved to know that the new one is not reinventing the wheel. In fact, it's not even rotating the tires.
The stars have said that returning to the set made them feel like they never left, and viewers will probably have the same experience. From the opening moments, sitting down to watch the rebooted series is like wriggling into an old pair of sweatpants. The main characters - Will (Eric McCormack), Grace (Debra Messing), Jack (Sean Hayes) and Karen (Megan Mullally) - are basically the same. The titular duo in particular seem a little older and a little wiser, but the dynamic among the foursome is unchanged in the reboot. Will and Grace are both single again and back to living with each other. Karen's still rich and clueless; her perpetually on-the-verge-of-death husband Stan is still alive; and Jack is still going after an acting career that's constantly eluding him.
The original ending - which featured a flash-forward to Grace and Will having a falling out, and then reconciling when their kids wind up at the same college (and later marry each other), while Jack inherits a fortune - is retconned within the first few minutes of the premiere, as creators had previously indicated it would be. We won't spoil it here, but imagine the most convenient way to dispense with that conclusion. (There's even a literal wink and a nod, just to make sure the audience is clear.)
Of course, the world in which Will & Grace takes place, particularly when it comes to politics and LGBT issues, has changed a lot since its initial airing - first for the better and, more recently, for the worse. Same-sex marriage wasn't legal in any states when the show originally premiered; now, it has been legalized nationwide - but members of the new administration seem keen on taking those rights away.
At times, the characters on Will & Grace 2.0 seems to be grappling with the changes the show itself helped effect. In Episode 2, Will goes on a date with a Millennial whose experiences as a gay man he can't relate to at all. The guy recalls coming out as a tween and being immediately accepted by his family, and later conflates Stonewall with Stonehenge. Will tries to play it cool at first, but ends up giving his date a lecture on how far the gay rights movement has come. "The minute we forget what we went through to get here is the minute it could all be taken away," he cautions his young crush.
Creator Max Mutchnick has said that the new version will have plenty to say about modern-day issues and President Trump (the revival started with a short film about the 2016 election, after all), and the show certainly isn't wasting any time weighing in. The premiere goes hard on President Trump and the policies of his administration, against the backdrop of a ludicrous b-plot in which Karen gets Grace a gig redecorating the Oval Office (Karen being, of course, a close personal friend of Melania Trump's), and Will goes to the White House to meet a Republican Congressman he has a crush on. The zingers continue in the first three episodes, with one-liners about everything from Obamacare to the Russia investigation. There are also a couple of wince-worthy attempts to woo a younger audience, and suffice it to say we'd all be better off not hearing Grace Adler use the term "woke".
Obviously all reboots and revivals are rooted in nostalgia at their core. It's fair to say that Will & Grace - more than most, perhaps - relies on retreading familiar territory. But since the environment around that territory has changed so much, it's understandable that the show still has something to say. As for the fact that the show's aesthetic is same as it ever was - hey, sometimes audiences are just looking for a little comfort food. And in times like these, we could all use a little comfort.
Will & Grace premieres Thursday at 9/8c on NBC.