The West Wing is planning to do a live special during November sweeps that will revolve around a heated debate between presidential hopefuls Matt Santos (Jimmy Smits) and Arnold Vinick (Alan Alda). "We are in negotiations with NBC to do a live debate," confirms the show's executive producer, John Wells. "We would actually film the hour leading up to the debate, the on-stage [action], all the backstage [stuff] and the aftermath."
Meanwhile, on Sept. 29 Will & Grace will kick off its eighth and final season by doing two separate live telecasts at 8:30 pm Eastern and Pacific times. "I think it's great," says star Eric McCormack. "We've always wanted to do something special, like a musical episode or a live episode."
Although the Will & Grace broadcasts will, of course, include some serious gags, little will be left to chance. "We'll rehearse more, that's for sure," insists McCormack. "We usually don't rehearse that much because we like to keep it fresh, but we probably shouldn't make as many mistakes in the live episode."
But all the rehearsal time in the world can't guarantee there won't be live and uncensored outbursts of laughter, should the Will & Grace players get caught up in a moment. "Sean [Hayes] is a cracker-upper," notes McCormack. "But I think we'll all be on our game. I think it'll actually be exhilarating how on our game we are."
One thespian's exhilaration, however, is another's anxiety. Who does McCormack predict will be the most nerve-racked going into the without-a-net venture? "I imagine somebody is, but I don't want to be the one to say [who]." He laughs. "It ain't me. I'm excited." — Additional reporting by Mary Murphy and Michael Ausiello