Say Goodnight Gracie! 'Will & Grace': ten years since our last goodbye

Reverting to their younger selves as the camera fades, so ended the 8 season, 188 episode run of one of the most successful, award-winning and groundbreaking programs in television history.

Seems a simple enough concept by today's LGBT tv standards: a comedy about four friends, two men and two women. But the fact that Will and Jack were two gay men, present in every scene, in every episode, made it both exceptional and controversial when Will & Grace debuted on NBC on September 21, 1998. It was the first highly successful network primetime television program featuring gay characters with a gay sensibility leading, well, gay lives. It quickly became a staple of NBC's Must See TV Thursday night line-up.

Will & Grace GLAAD AWardsThe show went on to win a total of 7 GLAAD Media Awards, out of 8 nominations, and won 16 Emmy Awards out of 83 noms.  Vice President Joe Biden recognized the show for helping to educate the American public about the gay community using the power of entertainment media.  All 188 episodes are now part of the Smithsonian's LGBT history collection.

It wasn't always smooth sailing when it appeared on the tv landscape.  "You got the sense that there was some anxiety about it," said David Kohan, who with Max Mutchnick co-created the show.  At one point, his agent asked him "Hey, can you make Will straight?"  The fact that Ellen DeGeneres had publicly come out a year prior to their premiere paved the way a bit, but given the outcry in some circles (remember the 'parental advisory' for Ellen?), it still had to prove its comedy chops.  And it did!

Will and Jack KissTo many within the LGBT community, romantic interests and fully-realized lives for Will and Jack were important.  And so it was bittersweet that it wasn't until halfway through the show's second season that the two famously participated in primetime's first gay male kiss.  However, within the context of the scene, it was played as two friends making a public statement (on The Today Show) rather than having a romantic moment.

An important distinction that lifted Will & Grace from the shadow of Ellen, cancelled the year before their premiere, was the moment of embracing one's identity that each show portrayed.  "Will & Grace had a better shot at succeeding where Ellen failed because Will has known about his homosexuality for twenty years.  He's not exploring that awkward territory for the first time as Ellen did," cited Kohan.  Because of it's success, GLAAD included it within the ten tv shows that helped shape the public consciousness on same-sex couples and marriage equality.

For those of us that see ourselves within Ellen, Will & Grace, Modern Family, The L Word or Empire, we "get" what these characters are going through.  But for so many people whose only contact with our community is through television, these images matter.  Content matters in opening a window into our lives and our relationships.  This is why the work GLAAD does in accelerating acceptance through fair, accurate and inclusive images of LGBT people on television, film, music videos and comics is so important.

Accelerating Acceptance 2016

At a time when there is a growing misperception that LGBT people are now fully equal in the eyes of the law, the power of television to shape hearts and minds by telling our stories is more important than ever.  This is why GLAAD will continue urging content creators to include our diverse community, tell our stories, portray our relationships; and by doing so, shine a bright light on the common humanity that unites us.

So Will, Grace, Jack, Karen, Val, Beverley, Candy and others ... We will always remember you fondly!

Jack and Karen from Will & Grace