Will & Grace: How the Revival Torpedoed Its Original Series Finale

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This post contains spoilers for the Will & Grace revival premiere.

Going into the premiere of Will & Grace, most fans probably knew at least one thing: the revival would scuttle a good bit of what happened in the original series finale 11 years go. Why? Because of something Karen Walker (Megan Mullally) said in the premiere, in her characteristic blunt way: “Nobody wants to see you two raise kids.”

So, how, exactly, did the writers sidestep acknowledging the finale—which found Will and Grace (Eric McCormack and Debra Messing) drifting apart as they each began to raise children with their respective spouses? Simple: they employed one of the oldest tricks in the sitcom book.

The premiere opens on Will and Grace playing a game in the living room as Jack (Sean Hayes) watches and Karen stares into space. Eventually, the three decide to revive their friend. Jack takes the lead by shaking a bottle of pills from her purse in Karen’s ear. She shoots up instantly, asking, “What’s going on? What’s happening? Who won the election?”

Everyone in the room sullenly informs Karen that her guy—Donald Trump, obviously—won, at which point she tells the group, “I had the craziest dream.”

“Will was living with a swarthy man in uniform,” Karen says, describing where we left him in the original series finale—“and Grace was married to a Jew doctor.” Will then informs her that while both he and Grace did have long-term partners, they’re single again now. When Karen asks what happened to the kids both Will and Grace had—who grew up to marry one another in the original finale—that’s where reality starts to diverge.

“That never happened,” Will says, to which Karen replies, “Oh, what a relief! Nobody wants to see you two raise kids.”

Once it’s established that Will and Grace are actually living together again while Grace recovers from her divorce from Leo, Karen has just two more questions: is she still rich, and is her husband Stan still alive?

“You’re rich,” Will tells her. “Stan’s alive.” He gestures toward himself and Grace as he recaps, “Both single, no kids.”

Then Jack chimes in with the kicker: a fourth wall-breaking wink, and a stern “got it?”

From there, the show goes on as though nothing has changed since the old series. Psst, Roseanne—maybe you should take notes.

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The Big Orange Couch, Nickelodeon

The Big Orange Couch, Nickelodeon

For a generation of viewers, nothing said “stay up past your bedtime” like the inviting orange sofa that served as SNICK’s official mascot.

Photo: Courtesy of Nickelodeon.

The Couch at Central Perk, *Friends*

The Couch at Central Perk, Friends

Really, those orange cushions were the seventh friend. (Sorry, Gunther.)

Photo: From Everett Collection.

The Simpson Family’s Couch, *The Simpsons*

The Simpson Family’s Couch, The Simpsons

The opening credits have transformed it into a giant whack-a-mole game, an electric chair, and a roller coaster, among countless other objects—but at heart, the Simpson family’s couch will always be the center of their all-American home.

Photo: From 20th Century Fox/Everett Collection.


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D’Angelo Barksdale’s Orange Sofa, The Wire

Another orange couch—but this one is outside! And also a perfect meeting spot for Baltimore’s drug dealers.

Photo: From HBO/Photofest.

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Don’s Office Couch, Mad Men

From pitches to hangover naps to ill-advised hookups, this was one of the hardest-working couches in show business.

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Blanche, Rose, Dorothy, and Sophia’s Couch, The Golden Girls

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Olivia’s White Couch, Scandal

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The Big Orange Couch, Nickelodeon

The Big Orange Couch, Nickelodeon

For a generation of viewers, nothing said “stay up past your bedtime” like the inviting orange sofa that served as SNICK’s official mascot.

Courtesy of Nickelodeon.

The Couch at Central Perk, <em>Friends</em>

The Couch at Central Perk, Friends

Really, those orange cushions were the seventh friend. (Sorry, Gunther.)

From Everett Collection.

The Simpson Family’s Couch, <em>The Simpsons</em>

The Simpson Family’s Couch, The Simpsons

The opening credits have transformed it into a giant whack-a-mole game, an electric chair, and a roller coaster, among countless other objects—but at heart, the Simpson family’s couch will always be the center of their all-American home.

From 20th Century Fox/Everett Collection.

D’Angelo Barksdale’s Orange Sofa, <em>The Wire</em>

D’Angelo Barksdale’s Orange Sofa, The Wire

Another orange couch—but this one is outside! And also a perfect meeting spot for Baltimore’s drug dealers.

From HBO/Photofest.

The Conner Family’s Couch, <em>Roseanne</em>

The Conner Family’s Couch, Roseanne

From Everett Collection.

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Issa’s Old Couch, Insecure

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Oprah’s Yellow Couch, The Oprah Winfrey Show

From United Archives GmbH/Alamy Stock Photo.

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“The Couch,” Seinfeld

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From Castle Rock Entertainment/Everett Collection.

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The Palmer Family’s Couch, Twin Peaks

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Don’s Office Couch, <em>Mad Men</em>

Don’s Office Couch, Mad Men

From pitches to hangover naps to ill-advised hookups, this was one of the hardest-working couches in show business.

By Carin Baer/AMC/Everett Collection.

Blanche, Rose, Dorothy, and Sophia’s Couch, <em>The Golden Girls</em>

Blanche, Rose, Dorothy, and Sophia’s Couch, The Golden Girls

Does it get more Florida fabulous than this squashy bamboo dream?

From Touchstone Television/Everett Collection.

Olivia’s White Couch, <em>Scandal</em>

Olivia’s White Couch, Scandal

Red wine, white couch? Only Olivia Pope could combine them without fear.

By John Fleenor/ABC.

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