A domestic Sitcom about a gay man, Will Truman (Eric McCormack), and a straight woman, Grace Adler (Debra Messing), who are best friends and eventually roommates. The show chronicles the changes that their relationship undergoes as Grace dumps her fiancee and Will breaks up with Michael, his long-term boyfriend. They are also joined by Will's "friend" Jack McFarland and Grace's "assistant", the perpetually drunk millionaire Karen Walker.
The show is quite polarizing, it seems: it's critically acclaimed for its humor and fast-paced dialogue, but it's also highly criticized for the Unfortunate Implications that come along with poking fun at or accidentally reinforcing stereotypes about the gay community. Therefore, Your Mileage May Vary on the content of the show.
For all its flaws, the show actually does pull off some good dramatic moments and genuinely funny dialogue and had a rather sweet series finale after eight seasons.
And it's also worth noting that Will & Grace is one of the few sitcoms in which all the four main characters won an Emmy, which is remarkable (the only other two on record are All in The Family and The Golden Girls, so they're in good company)!
- All Gays Are Promiscuous: Played straight with Jack, averted with Will.
Jack: I go on literally thousands of dates a year.
- Amazingly Embarrassing Parents
- Animal Chick Magnet: Jack used Will's dog to pick up guys.
- Anticlimactic Parent: Jack's dad. Later recycled for Vince's dad.
- At the Opera Tonight
- Aw, Look -- They Really Do Love Each Other
- Babies Ever After: The series finale. Taken further by a time jump where we find that Will and Grace's son and daughter meet as college freshmen and are attracted to each other, and eventually marry several years down the road.
- Beautiful All Along: Barry. Everyone thinks he looks awful at first. Get rid of his beard and glasses and trim his hair and suddenly everyone's attracted to him.
- Bi the Way: Karen, seemingly, whose actress is bi as well. This is played for laughs rather than used for any serious plots, though. She seems to be more along the lines of Anything That Moves or "too drunk to tell the difference."
- Also, a pansexual chef gets into a love triangle with Will and Karen; Karen, of all people, thinks this means "attracted to cookware".
- Then he mentions casually that he's also getting it on with Rosario, which is too much even for Karen.
- Also, a pansexual chef gets into a love triangle with Will and Karen; Karen, of all people, thinks this means "attracted to cookware".
- Brainless Beauty: Jack.
- Brilliant but Lazy: Jack has many talents if just applied himself such as the time he became a male nurse. He can also write really good homo-erotic novels but only when he's depressed.
- Butch Lesbian: There is a recurring butch delivery woman character who seems to be into Grace, despite having a wife, and Jack and Will also have kite-selling friends, a butch/femme couple, who Jack nicknames "Starsky and Butch".
- Elliot's mother, played by Rosie O'Donnell, is on the butch side. The notion of a butch lesbian recurs: Grace says at a Human Rights Campaign dinner that she got her eyebrows waxed in the men's room and learned how to rewire a lamp in the ladies' room; when Jack says that he wants artistic advice from a real woman rather than a bunch of lesbians, Grace says he should know better than to stereotype lesbians, and then wonders aloud whether she can get them to fix her watch.
- But Not Too Gay: A common criticism of this show, regarding Will's love life.
- Calling the Old Man Out
- Camp Gay: Jack, occasionally Will.
- Camp Straight: Played for laughs in one episode. Jack gets into a gay men's chorus. Will quips, "Is the gay men's chorus really any gayer than the straight men's chorus?" Turns out that the chorus's very heterosexual and masculine soloist Owen is posing as a gay guy so he can sing: "I love to sing choral music, but there's no room for a straight guy in that world. All I wanted was to sing and be accepted, and maybe dance a little too."
- Carrying a Cake
- The Charmer: Leo, Grace's future husband and father of her child. Actually parodied in an episode where he and Grace find out Karen hates his guts despite the fact that everyone else loves him. The matter is resolved this way: "There. We're all friends now -- on the surface where it counts."
- Chivalrous Pervert: Leo has streaks of this.
- Citizenship Marriage: Rosario's temporary marriage to Jack, and the source of a separate arc where Grace marries Will's Canadian boyfriend.
- Clothing Switch
- Cloudcuckoolander: Jack, Karen and Karen's later love interest played by Alec Baldwin. With Baldwin, we are never really sure how much of his insanity is true because there are some hints that he is indeed a government agent of some sort. Or he could just be completely bonkers.
- He is eventually revealed to be working for Karen's Back from the Dead husband Stan, but as we never really meet him and never really find out what he gets up to in the business world, it's hard to say just what Malcolm does for him.
- Coming Out Story: A couple of times throughout the show; there's Will's play 'Bye Bi-Sexual' and one episode that deals with Jack coming out to his mother.
- Comically Missing the Point: When Grace tells Will that his dad is having an affair, Will is too distracted by the fact that Grace found out while at Seussical The Musical to grasp what she's saying.
- Confession Deferred
- Conflicting Loyalties
- Cool and Unusual Punishment: Karen throws a wild party and trashes Will's apartment in one episode. Her punishment? Will denies Karen her afternoon Martini (a.k.a. "dessert") -- and makes her look at Grace's endless honeymoon photos.
Karen: (to Will) I HATE YOU!
- Deadpan Snarker: Everyone at some point. Most often Will, especially in the first season. Eric McCormack went on record of saying that he was happy when Will became less of a straight man (pardon the pun) and got to do a lot more physical comedy (one of the first was when Will said something stupid to a cute bookstore employee; he puts him on hold, smacks himself in the head with the phone, screams out "Idiot", and resumes the conversation in less than two seconds).
- Did You Just Have Sex?
- Distant Finale
- The Ditz: Jack, and Karen sometimes.
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: One of Karen's socialite rivals gets shoulder implants and acts like she just had a baby.
- Double Entendre: This show is built on it.
- Earpiece Conversation: Jack tries hitting on a man while working in a retail store where he wears an earpiece; Will feeds him lines so he can look smart. The guy isn't taken in, finds Will, and asks him out.
- Effeminate Misogynistic Guy: Jack DID occasionally have elements of this, but it varied from episode to episode due to Rule of Funny.
- Establishing Shot
- Ethnic Menial Labor: Rosario.
- Even the Girls Want Her: Karen has a great rack. No, like, a really great rack. Gay, straight, whatever, no one is immune to Karen's boobs and the show takes full advantage of this fact.
- Everyone Has Standards: Karen is a Gold Digger, but not a hooker. Sex for luxuries, but not money.
- Fag Hag: Grace to Will, Karen to Jack.
- Fiery Redhead: Grace, on occasion.
- Flanderization: Pretty much everyone after a certain point.
- Gay Conservative: Beverly Leslie. ("Oh, Benji, I can't stand the sight of all this...homosexual dancing!")
- Also Ted Bauers, who runs for mayor in one episode. Will supports him because he's a gay man, without knowing anything about his policies. Will is then horrified when at a gathering Will hosts to support him, Bauers says homeless people should be bussed out of the city, and concludes his speech with "women in the home, force those foreigners to speak our language, and if God didn't want some people to be poor, He'd give them money."
- Gayngst: Mostly averted, but toyed with when it comes to character histories.
- Gayngster: Parodied with the Gay Mafia.
- Germans Love David Hasselhoff: In-universe with Karen; between her second and third marriage, she traveled around Asia, and once she was featured in a Japanese ad for an energy drink, she became a big sensation in Japan (so big, she's still being recognized by Japanese tourists to this very day).
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: In the episode "The Big Vent", Grace is listening through her heating vent and overhears a couple having an affair, the first line said by the man involved in the affair is "you taste good!" (I'm sure you can guess what he's referring to that "tastes" good). I'm amazed that line slipped past the censors.
- The Ghost: Stan Walker and his son Mason.
- Go-To Alias: Karen uses "Anastasia Beaverhausen".
- Good Ol' Boy: Will's biggest client, Harlan (soon to be ex biggest client, resulting in Will's unemployment).
- Gym Bunny
- Happily Married: At the end, Will and Vince, Grace and Leo. The other married couples in the show fight like cats and dogs, though.
- Has Two Mommies: Subverted. Though Elliott's parents are both homosexual, he has one mother and one father.
- Will and Vince's son has two daddies, of course. Will's married gay friends Joe and Larry have a daughter, Hannah. In Season 3, Will and Jack turn up for a fun drunken gay party and find that all their gay friends are coupled up and have kids.
- Have I Mentioned I Am Gay?
- Het Is Ew: Jack veered into this, especially when he would parrot some of the common arguments against gay rights (after shuffling around the genders): "Heterosexuality is just wrong. If God had intended man and woman to be together, he would have given them both penises."
- He Who Must Not Be Seen: Stan.
- Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: An odd example is provided by way of Karen and her husband, the morbidly obese Stan.
- Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: In the form of Pun Based Titles.
- If I Had a Nickel:
Kevin Bacon: Man if I had a dollar for every jock strap my stalker stole from me...
- If It's You It's Okay: Jack is repulsed by heterosexuality, but he likes experimenting with Karen.
- I Miss Mom
- Inadvertent Entrance Cue: Beverly Leslie. Created some of Karen's best one liners.
Karen: "Gosh honey... think I'm kinda jealous. I wish I had a handsome man visiting me at work"
- Incompatible Orientation
- Invisible to Gaydar: The producers think Will is. Again, though, see Fair for Its Day. Will was a mostly-sitcom-normal guy who had the occasional camp element pop up for laughs - during a time when the world heard 'gay' and thought of someone like Jack. Fast forward a decade, though, and he's a Camp Gay whose buddy just happens to be doubly so. However, Will's boyfriend Vince is more successful at pulling off Invisible to Gaydar.
- Played somewhat more literally with Matt Damon's character in "A Chorus Lie"--he pretends to be gay in order to get into the Gay Men's Chorus, but Jack "ins" him.
- Reality Is Unrealistic: John Barrowman, a gay man, tried out for Will. Producers thought he wasn't gay enough. Which explains why Invisible to Gaydar failed.
- Which may indicate that only Will himself is supposed to see him as such whereas he's obviously gay to everyone else, except for Grace at first.
- At the beginning of the series, Will was pretty much a 'regular guy' except that he hated sports. We heard about how as a kid he wanted a fire engine, was envious that his brother got the better bike, and wanted a cowboy cake (though that was at least partly because he was attracted to cowboys). Then we started hearing more and more about his 'effeminate' childhood tastes and current habits.
- Matt, one of Will's boyfriends, fits this trope: he's an athletic sportscaster. He also goes back in the closet because he's on TV now.
- Barry. He watches football and Will gets exasperated at him for not recognizing divas and for using a baseball metaphor.
- It Meant Something to Me: Spoken verbatim by Diane's, Will's only female bedmate.
- Ivy League for Everyone
- Jeff Goldblum: Plays the character Scott Wooly in a short arc. Magnificently.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Karen, in a rather twisted way.
- Kwyjibo: "Spramped" and "carpouche".
- Lady Drunk: Karen.
- Lampshade Hanging: From time to time.
- One rather golden moment was when Jack and Karen were playing with helium balloons and messing with their voices, Jack's went high pitched and squeaky, while Karen's was the same as hers was already like that.
- Another funny one: Karen was using the shower in Grace's apartment and comes out with a towel around her head. She takes it off and her hair is completely dry, prompting Grace to ask how her hair dried so quickly; Karen answers "Money".
- And in the series finale, Karen and Jack complain that sometimes they feel like supporting players on "the Will and Grace show" when their friends are acting self-absorbed.
- Earlier, Will and Grace were arguing at Jack's one-man show he says "This is Just Jack, not the Will & Grace show!"
- The episode "No Sex and the City" lampshades sitcom cliches and tropes.
- Last Het Romance: Grace was this to Will.
- Like an Old Married Couple: Harlan observes this of the eponymous duo.
"You sure you aren't straight? Because this sounds exactly like me and the missus."
- Lipstick Lesbian: Rose in the gay penguins episode. Also Amber Louise, though her feminine style may be just a put-on to help her make her way in TV.
- Live Episode
- "Ma'am" Shock
- Meddling Parents
- Minor Flaw, Major Breakup
- Modern Minstrelsy:
- Rosario is this. Yes it's played for satire, but...
- My Friends and Zoidberg: Jack would commonly address the other three as "Ladies... and Grace."
- Name and Name
- Negative Continuity: In an early episode, Jack says he loves lesbians; especially Willow. But in a later episode, he's prejudiced against lesbians because he assumes they're all ugly and unfeminine.
- Actually according to Word of God, in the episode with Terry and Annie, there was a deleted scene that explained why Jack hated them -- they caught him stealing twine from their shop, the creators clarified that Jack does NOT have anything against lesbians.
- In the first season, Will's dad says that when Will came out to his parents, he walked into the living room and said, "Mom, Dad, I'm gay, and I want to bring my boyfriend home for Christmas." From the third season onwards the story is that when Will came out to his dad they were in a car and his dad drove into a telephone pole. Then, at Will's dad's funeral, Will's mother says that they've never met any of his boyfriends. Though that's not necessarily negative continuity: Will could have intended to bring that college boyfriend home but the boyfriend had other commitments or something like that.
- Early on, Will says he fancies cowboys. Grace says, "I know. I've seen the magazines." In Season 8, Will says he doesn't find cowboys sexy. Mind you, he is in a gay cowboy bar trying to repel the advances of Jack's new boyfriend, so he could be just making that one up.
- Never Heard That One Before
- No Bisexuals
- In spades. Will at one point says "Pansexual? Isn't that just a rest stop on the highway to homo?", echoing the familiar 'gay, straight or lying' line often heard in the gay community. In the first season, Will and Grace are both attracted to a new tenant in their apartment building, who seems to be potentially interested in them both. They argue over whether he's straight or gay; the possibility of his being bi is never raised. In the second season, the produce guy gives Grace his number, and everyone assumes that this means he never sleeps with guys.
- Grace very briefly alludes to have another bisexual friend, but she's just trying to one-up Will in the Twofer Token Minority department.
- And Karen, of course, certainly seems to be bisexual, as she has referred to relationships with both men and women many times, but it's never called by name (see Bi the Way above).
- It is called by name once: Season 5 episode 21.
- The (female) photographer Will and Grace go to in Season Four seems to be bisexual, and even Grace mentions having dated "that one masculine-looking girl." Diane and the roommate Karen gets at one point both seem to be willing to make out with Karen, though nothing actually happens. So yeah, it might be more accurate to say "No Male Bisexuals". Truth in Television up to a point, since more women than men identify as bisexual, but still.
- In episode 2 of Season 6, when Jack finds out that Leo's ex-girlfriend Diane is also the only woman Will has ever slept with, he says, "So in a way, you and Will have slept together. So technically, you're bi." and calls him "Swings-Both-Ways Leo".
- There are a couple of 'I'd go gay/straight for' moments: Will saying that if he had to sleep with a woman it'd be Hilary Swank, Grace saying that even she is attracted to a particular very attractive woman.
- And then there was the Thanksgiving episode where Will said that everybody, whether they were man, woman, gay, straight, has the hots for Angelina Jolie.
- Old Shame: Karen's dominatrix pornstar turn.
- Over and Under the Top
- Parental Favoritism: Will, the youngest of three sons, is his mother's favorite.
- Parody Episode: "No Sex 'N The City".
- Perfectly Cromulent Word: "Spramped".
- Pet Homosexual: Jack, mostly.
- Pettanko: Grace, as often mocked by Karen.
- Platonic Life Partners: It used to be the Trope Namer for this, when the trope was confusingly named "The Straight Will and Grace". The actual relationship of Will and Grace doesn't qualify. It's close, but Grace eventually getting married and having kids disqualifies them, despite being in the title. Hence the rename.
- Pretty in Mink: Karen wears lots of furs. Many are fake, but not mentioned to be in the show, so that was likely for budget reasons. It would count as Fur and Loathing, except Grace wears a couple as well.
- Pygmalion Plot: "Fagmalion", in which Will and Jack teach the Invisible to Gaydar Barry to be a "proper" homosexual, then both get a crush on him.
- Reindeer Aren't Real: Semi-example, Karen about an ex-gay group:
"Honey, this is a cult! Yeah! Like the Moonies or the homeless."
- Rich Bitch: Karen.
- Room Shuffle
- Rummage Sale Reject: Karen sees Grace as this.
- Sassy Secretary: Karen.
- Schoolyard Bully All Grown Up
- Screams Like a Little Girl: Will, but Jack even more so, to the point where it even goes to dog whistle range.
- Actually, that wasn't Jack's screams, but rather his particular version of Angrish.
- Will also does this too, as discovered when someone tried to break into Grace's apartment.
Will: Did I just scream like a woman?
- Servile Snarker: Rosario.
- Sitcom Arch Nemesis: Mr. Zamir for Grace.
- Studio Audience
- Token Lesbian[context?]
- Transparent Closet: Jack in the first episode, and later Beverly Leslie.
- Arguably Will. In the first and even the second seasons, he was a fairly Invisible to Gaydar except for his utter lack of interest in sports. As the series continued he mentioned more and more 'girly' things he had done as a kid: needle-pointing, baking cookies, watching Little House on the Prairie with his mother, spending two hours getting his hair exactly right before the family trip to The Nutcracker, pretending to be Eartha Kitt, being obsessed with Doris Day, singing love songs at school talent shows, putting on little musical plays at home, wearing his mother's clothes and, when he was ten, having them tailored! Though he did date girls in adolescence, with all this it seems odd for his parents to have been shocked when he came out at nineteen.
- Transsexualism: A stripper hired for a bachelor party in one episode turns out to be this.
- Trial Balloon Question
- True Companions: The group has ridiculous amounts of friction but when it comes down to it, they really are a horrible dysfunctional little family.
- Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Stan and Karen again.
- The Unseen: Stan Walker. As with most off-screen sitcom characters, Stan is defined by a single attribute: in this case, his obesity.
- Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist: Will and Grace trade between this status depending upon the episode.
- The Vamp: Minnie Driver's character Lorraine Finster in later seasons.
- Vitriolic Best Buds
- Vocal Evolution: Karen becomes more shrill and high-pitched as time goes on.
- Where Everybody Knows Your Flame
- Whole-Plot Reference: The episode that parodied The Sound of Music.
- Your Costume Needs Work: Jack mistook the real Cher for a Drag Queen. He even gave her tips on how to be more "authentic". May also double as Crowning Moment of Funny.