Ray Richmond contributes to Deadline’s TCA coverage.
For his first comedy series role since Will & Grace left the air in 2006, Sean Hayes was insistent that it be on a multicamera show, he said today at a TCA session promoting his new NBC offering Sean Saves the World. Created by Victor Fresco, the show centers on his character’s figuring out how to parent a 14-year-old daughter (Samantha Isler) who just moved in with him. It co-stars Linda Lavin of Alice fame as his mother as well as Megan Hilty — late of Smash — as his longtime friend. One of the keys to Hayes’ character is that, like his Will & Grace alter ego, he’s gay. And Fresco believes that show’s impact was to help open up network primetime to embrace gay characters on shows like Modern Family and now Sean Saves the World. “Without Will & Grace, we would not be here right now,” Fresco stressed. “But I think of this as a post-gay show where there is a gay man at the center but it’s not about his being gay.” Indeed, for his part, Hayes is proud of the fact that primetime has now progressed to the point where a gay character’s “gayness” can be incidental. “It’s an afterthought just like any other character or minority now,” he emphasized, “which is how it should be. It’s even sad that it’s a question, really.” Hayes admitted that he would like that his previous show “had a big influence on the gay movement in America.”
Not that Hayes was thinking about any of that when he got the Will & Grace job. “I was 26. It was a job, nothing more.” What he says he could never have envisioned is that a byproduct of that would be “opening people’s minds and maybe educating them without them knowing about the normalcy of gay people. They’re just like black people, Jewish people, or anyone else people in small towns can have their means to get to know.” But the gay issue aside, Hayes said he was waiting for the right opportunity to jump back into the primetime fray. “Multicam is my favorite medium,” he said after the TCA session. “It makes me laugh. I still watch Cheers and Frasier and I Love Lucy. I think it’s too often missing on television. Trust me, multicam is the new single cam.” Also coming back to TV is Lavin, the star of the 1970s-’80s sitcom classic Alice. She said during the panel that she was lured back to primetime by a script that was particularly smart and sophisticated. “I’m playing a mother who is not the butt of the joke,” she said, “who is not a simpleton or a joke herself and who has something to say and is attractive and smart and challenging.”