Shut-Eye for Almost Every Guy

“Will & Grace”
Episode #144: “Speechless”

Sitting down to watch an episode of Will & Grace for the first time in my life was an experience I won’t soon forget. “Well-written,” “believable” and “enjoyable” are just some of the words that come to mind… when I think of the commercials, that is. The show itself I found to be a manipulative pile of drivel. The show revolves around two flatmates, Will Truman and Grace Adler (Eric McCormack and Debra Messing) who are also best friends. He’s a gay lawyer and she’s a heterosexual interior designer. There’s also Will’s gay friend Jack McFarland (Sean Hayes) and Grace’s sarcastic assistant Karen (Megan Mullally).

The show opens with a brief “teaser” segment in which we learn that Jack is graduating from nursing school and has been asked to give a commencement speech—but he misread the invitation and the ceremony is that evening, so he’s running late. Cue the opening titles, bump to commercial and then back to the story. Now Jack realizes he’s got another problem: he has no speech. He turns to Will for help, asking him to create one for him. Once everyone is into the limo, Will begins crafting a speech by posing questions to Jack about his life and what inspired him.

Everything goes smoothly at the graduation… until Jack realizes he is only kidding himself. Turns out he really doesn’t care about being a nurse and still really wants to be a thespian, so he tears up the speech. There was an epilogue (of about 45 seconds) during the credits but the TV recorder cut it off in the middle and spared me a few seconds of pain… there is a God.

So why was I so turned off by the show? Maybe the episode was just one of the occasional turkeys every show has? After all, the show has a mass of rabid fans. No, I don’t think so; I genuinely despised the show itself. Although to be fair, I only disliked two things about it: the acting and the writing. Here’s what I saw when I watched: an egotistical man, his obnoxious friend and a woman whose only purpose appears to be making snide remarks. We are never “graced” with the presence of Debra Messing’s character.

Here’s the problem: I don’t have anything against a gay person; I have a problem with the way they’re stereotyped on TV, and the actors don’t know how to improve on what they’re given. Eric McCormack knows about as many facial expressions as a signpost, waves his hands in random movements and then tries to hide his overacting by always trying to appear preoccupied. Sean Hayes’ character acts so ridiculously effeminate and giddy that he comes across as slow-witted and infuriating.

Of course, the writers know they need something to compensate for the talentless acting, so they put in the character of Karen. It’s like the writers sat down together and said, “Gee, our actors are terrible and even we can’t crank out a decent storyline, so let’s make up for it by putting in a helium-voiced woman whose only skill is making gay jokes.” And then they voted unanimously that this was a great idea. Only problem is, you can’t understand a third of what she’s saying because her voice sounds like helium. The woman is so shrill that Mullally must have been ingesting it by the tankful, and the only way you could tell the difference between her and “Alvin and the Chipmunks” is that Karen exists solely for the purpose of constantly making offensive jokes about gay people.

So here’s the verdict: The show displays as much intelligence as it believes its audience to have, which is minimal. I could go on for 20 pages, but I’m not going to; I’m going to waste as little of my time on the show as possible. But the gist of it is, the show’s contrived and it seems that it has a hidden agenda. The writing is absolutely bizarre: for one thing, the characters are distant, emotionless figures, giving no way for the viewer to connect or identify with them.

What’s more, the one-liners are so random and out-of-place that nobody has a clue what they mean. The actors can’t act them, and even if they could, it doesn’t change the fact that the program expects the jokes will somehow carry the entire show to success. It doesn’t work, since most of the humor is based on stereotypes and unfunny cracks about gay people. It’s all too appropriate that I called the apartment a “flat” earlier, since it works as a catchall description for any part of the show, like the cardboard-cutout-personality actors and shoebox-diorama scenes.

The final word from me is, there’s not much to laugh at. The redeeming feature of this calamity was a female nursing student at the end (Amy Crofoot) whose enthusiastic singing and table-slapping reminded me of Kathy Najimy’s character from Sister Act. That, and the commercials. Now that IKEA ad… that’s good television!