The Emmy-winning Will & Grace is returning to NBC. After months of complex and difficult negotiations, the network has closed a deal for a new 10-episode limited installment of the hit series, to air during the 2017-18 season. NBC Entertainment president Jennifer Salke made the announcement at the top of NBC’s TCA presentation. It was accompanied by a video. (you can watch it above.)
The new, ninth season of Will & Grace stems from the surprise election-themed reunion mini-episode released on Sept. 26. Done without NBC’s involvement, it immediately triggered talk of a possible real reunion.
Slowly but surely, producing studio Universal TV was able to secure stars Eric McCormack, Debra Messing, Megan Mullally and Sean Hayes as well as creators/executive producers Max Mutchnick and David Kohan. Veteran director James Burrows, who directed every episode of the show during its initial eight-year run, is on board to direct and executive produce.
“We started talking with Mutchnick and Kohan about producing new episodes right after they shot the secret reunion show back in September, and the fact that all four of the original stars were excited about getting back into production is a testament to the joyful experience they had doing nearly 200 episodes for eight seasons,” said Salke, “Few things cut through the clutter these days, especially in comedy, and Will and Grace is one of the best.”
Reviving broadcast series with the original cast has become a Netflix specialty with Arrested Development, Fuller House and, most recently Gilmore Girls. This is a rare case when the new installment will air on the series’ original network, but NBC had been pretty determined about keeping Will & Grace on the network. The premise for the revival is still being worked out but the new installment is expected to pick up the characters’ stories a decade after the 2006 finale.
Will & Grace is a very successful major network sitcom that ran for eight seasons and sold in off-network syndication where it continues to make a lot of money. By the end of the show’s run on NBC, the four stars commanded very high salaries — reported at the time to be close to $600,000 an episode — in addition to a piece of the series’ lucrative back end. I hear the new installment is being treated as a ninth season, adhering to deals and back-end distribution structure already in place., though, in light of the new economic realities of broadcast TV, compensations are lower than they were in the sitcom’s final hurrah.
In one of the most intriguing 1990s TV pacts, Warner Bros landed domestic distribution of the NBC Studios-produced Will & Grace in exchange to loaning out Mutchnick and Kohan, who had been signed into an exclusive WBTV deal, back to NBC to work on the show. I hear rights had since reverted to NBCUniversal, but WBTV still has Mutchnick under an overall deal and agreed to loan him out for the revival.
Co-creator/executive producer Mutchnick who was behind the Will & Grace reunion mini-episode (you can watch it below), bringing the cast together, and getting the original set re-assembled in the basement of the lot where the NBC series filmed. He and Kohan wrote the script, with additional punch-up work by Will & Grace alums Gary Janetti and Bill Wrubel.
The episode has been a hit, drawing almost 7 million viewers since its debut on the day of the first Presidential debate, September 26. What’s more, unlike some other reunions, the characters on Will & Grace almost picked up where they left off, all of them looking close to the way they did 10 years ago when the series ended, and so did the character dynamic on the show.
“Dave and I are absolutely thrilled about the opportunity to write what Will, Grace, Jack and Karen are thinking about in 2017,” Mutchnick said.
Will & Grace, which aired from 1998-2006 as one of the last tentpoles of NBC’s once venerable Must-See TV comedy lineup, has great legacy — in addition to winning 16 Emmys, including best comedy series, it is credited with paving the way for LGBT characters on TV, featuring the first openly gay lead characters on a primetime network series.
“We’re thrilled that one of the smartest, funniest, and most defining comedies in NBC history is coming back,” said NBC Entertainment Chairman Robert Greenblatt. “This groundbreaking series for everything from gay rights to social and political commentary — all disguised as a high-speed train of witty pop culture — is coming back where it belongs.”
While the Will & Grace ensemble players have had successful post-show careers, there was an opening, with only McCormack tied to a series, Canadian sci-fi drama series Travelers, which will air on Netflix outside of Canada.
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