Forgive Will Truman and Grace Adler if they use the commercial breaks to sneak in a nap.
It's been 11 years since "Will & Grace's" supposed finale, and stars Eric McCormack and Debra Messing — reunited with sidekicks Megan Mullally and Sean Hayes — are gung-ho to show that they're still as spry as ever in Thursday's highly anticipated return. That commitment is kind of admirable, considering all four are over the age of 45. (Mullally, in fact, is in her late 50s.)
It also carries a slight whiff of desperation. In the course of the first three episodes, members of the foursome whack one another with pillows, nearly drown in a shower stall and boogie-woogie to Madonna's "Borderline." Even the show's theme song has been injected with Viagra.
The cast, all of whom earned Emmys during the sitcom's original run from 1998 to 2006, are still game performers, particularly Hayes, whose bit with magnetic underwear makes for a nice tribute to the late Jerry Lewis. But one can't shake the feeling that the actors are trying a little too hard to prove they're not ready for the retirement center.
The comedy actually works better when the characters act their age. Will, for instance, gets exasperated by a 23-year-old date who tries to prove he's aware of gay rights history but refers to Stonehenge instead of Stonewall. And Grace struggles to come to terms with her divorce from Dr. Leo Markus (guest star Harry Connick Jr.).
Connick is just one of many throwbacks to the show's first run — the new series opens with the gang's traditional round of charades — but while they're adorable, the sitcom is much more satisfying when it deals with midlife issues.
NBC has renewed "Will & Grace" for a second season, all the more reason the actors should slow down and grow up. It'll be better for the sitcom, not to mention their health.
Neal Justin • 612-673-7431
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