Mar 27, 2011

[TV] Will & Grace: Season 4

Will & Grace: Season 4As a sitcom matures, character back stories get more fleshed out and their relationships with other characters really begin to grow. It makes me wonder if writers are cognizant of the value of creating a character who starts out as single since it's inevitable in the course of things that the audience will demand they connect with someone.

In traditional spheres, it meant a happily ever after with a fabulous wedding. These days, we're sort of happy when they're no longer single by the time to show wraps. Talk about lowering yor expectations or whatever. Anyway.

The fourth season of any show is a weird point in the life. It's past the danger zone of trying to survive the first two years but it's not quite in the relative "comfort" once you break the 5-year mark. The times in-between are always a tad awkward since there seem to be so many areas to go and if you started with pretty good characters, the possibilities are pretty much limitless. Otherwise, this is when badly-crafted characters really stand out since they start to falter and so does the show shortly thereafter.

Guess which kind of show this one is?

Will & Grace, for those not aware, was pretty much our longest-running LGBT-focused show on network television. Sure, it was a comedy and it didn't necessarily tackle the difficult issues like what shows such as Queer as Folk all the time, but it still made a unique mark on the entertainment landscape as we know it. Thus it remains a key part of the continuing evolution of gay characters on network television and a bit of a landmark in itself.

Woody Harrelson by David ShankboneImage via WikipediaThe season begins with an interesting new status quo - one that is sort of mirrored and constantly revisited in later episodes. At this point, Will (Eric McCormak) comes back from his island escape to discover Grace (Debra Messing) has a relationship with their unusual neighbor Nathan (Woody Harrelson). This throws a bit of a monkey wrench into the normally smooth Will & Grace machine as Nathan has to learn to accept the unique bond the two share as friends.

The season also had a number of interesting opportunities to explore their back stories and sort of expand their supporting cast. A good example was the two-part episode Moveable Feast, which had the four friends going on a marathon tour of their respective families as they tried to resolve their issues over Thanksgiving. This season also featured a lot of father-son time between Jack (Sean Hayes) and his biological son Elliot (Michael Angarano). And this was also that season where Karen (Megan Mullally) deals with the fact that her husband Stan is now in prison due to tax evasion charges.

The season also saw a lot of guest stars. More notable ones included Rosie O'Donnell as Bonnie, Elliot's mother and therefore recipient of Jack's sperm donation. There was also Matt Damon as the straight guy pretending to be gay in order to get into a gay men's chorus. And who can forget Michael Douglas as Detective Gavin Hatch - the closeted cop who has feelings for Will and yet lacks the confidence to act on them. Oh, and of course you have other appearances by the likes of Glenn Close, Sandra Bernhard, Molly Shannon and Cher playing none other than the Almighty.

I felt this season really did a lot for the respective families of the characters on the show in a clear attempt to sort of fill in the blanks of this crazy world they live in. We learned a heck of a lot more about Will's family than we ever expected. Of course we had more moments with Grace's fabulous mother as played by Debbie Reynolds. And yes, I actually liked the Jack and Elliot dynamic despite how "strange" it may seen when compared to a traditional father-son relationship. People will surprise you after all.

And the season certainly ended on a very interesting note - one that you'd sort of think was a highly possible angle of development for friends as close as Will and Grace and yet totally unthinkable at the same time. It just speaks to the quality of the writing and the longer-term thinking that the writers could afford given the relative security and stability of the show at this point.

Will & Grace: Season 4 remains to be another great season in this epic seasons and just as funny as all the others. It gets 4 crazy excuses to get Grace to kiss Karen out of a possible 5.
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