Will & Grace has consistently been there for me for the better part of my life. Always when I needed it the most. Sometimes when I didn’t even realize I needed it.
When I was 10, I tuned in for the first time to a show I knew nothing about, because a commercial told me that Cher was going to sass the hell out of some guy obsessed with her doll. I went into it thinking I was just going to see my favorite person ever be amazing for a few minutes. What I ended up getting was a new favorite show, something that immediately stuck with me. I could feel myself getting so invested in this world, so invested in each of these characters, and I quickly started looking forward to Thursday nights to get my fix.
I didn’t know they had just thrown me a lifeline. And at that point, I didn’t know that I had caught it.
From then on, the show became a million different things all at once. It was my ultimate go-to, something I could always count on. During the good parts of my life, it was an extra boost. During the bad parts, it was the thing that made me laugh without fail when nothing else could, something I could depend on every Thursday night. It gave me my first glimpses of what a life in New York City could be, and was absolutely instrumental in my wanting to call that city home. It gave me my first real exposure to positive gay representation, a glimpse of an accepting version of the world, something that I hadn’t really seen living in the suburbs of Amish Country, Pennsylvania. It sparked the desire to start writing, letting me explore a creative voice I didn’t realize was there, giving me an outlet, allowing me to connect with people in a way I never could before. But when the show ended the first time, I was 16 and beginning to discover a few key parts of my identity. Will & Grace had already laid the groundwork for me to be comfortable in my own skin, to be proud of who I am, and to refuse to dim my shine for anyone. I wasn’t scared of what I was learning about myself, and that wouldn’t have happened without this show. It taught me to love loudly with my entire heart. And loving loudly with my entire heart led me to some of the strongest relationships of my life.
Seeing the overwhelming and unconditional love that Will, Grace, Jack, and Karen had for each other taught me the value of chosen family, of being lucky enough to find at least one person out there who can completely change your world and make it brighter than you ever thought it could be. Being part of the Will & Grace fandom back in the day was the first time I ever felt like I found my tribe, where loving loudly was encouraged because everyone else was just as loud, where a mutual love for a TV show could be a strong enough bond between people from so many different walks of life, where I felt respected and loved without having to hide any piece of myself. I’ve made friendships because of this show that are still going strong after nearly 15 years–making a point to visit each other even when we live across the country from each other–and I’ve seen some of those friends fall in love with each other and get married. But when I finally got to start carving out a life for myself in New York City in my twenties, I got hit with a heavy dose of found family. I found one hell of a family, the people you’re always hanging around because you want to be around them, the people who know you inside and out and still love you, the ones you automatically turn to for everything, the ones you care about with everything you have. And while I would have understood how special this family was under any circumstances, watching Will & Grace for all those years and wishing that I would find a support system like that when I grew up makes me feel so unbelievably lucky that I got my wish. It taught me to never take them for granted; it taught me to cherish them with every fiber of my being.
I had enough life lessons and love from those first eight seasons to keep me going forever. I never expected to see anything new from this show, and I was content with going back to that original run whenever I needed something good. But then, we found ourselves in the age of revivals and reboots. We got our Fab Four back. And we got to keep them for three seasons.
Watching Will & Grace felt different this time around. Knowing the hand the show had in making me who I am today, it was the best kind of homecoming, where you’ve had the time and the distance to really appreciate everything that home gave you while diving back in for more. I know myself so much better now than I did when the show originally ended, I can truly say that I’m so proud of who I am, and I know that seeing our Fab Four every week during the original run was a big help in getting to that point. But I also got a few more things out of the new episodes that I never planned on. I got to enjoy the revival with the friends and family I made because of the original run. I got to use that creative voice to recap each and every one of these episodes, writing about one of my true pop culture loves time and time again. I got to rave and rant with all of you, whether in the comments here at HOF, or over on Twitter and Tumblr. I got to meet new people that made watching every week that much more fun.
I got a second wave of everything that made me love Will & Grace in the first place.
Now, I’m a week away from turning 30. And looking back on how long this show has been with me, it’s incredible to realize just how big a part it had in shaping who I am. I’ve spent the better part of twenty years hanging out in apartment 9C, from first run to reruns and back again, whenever I needed a quick laugh, whenever it felt like everything was crumbling around me and I needed something stable, whenever I needed to feel like I wasn’t alone. And I know I’ll be hanging out there long after this. Because no matter what twists and turns this show took over the course of its run, it never stopped being the lifeline I could rely on. I’m well aware that my experience isn’t unique, and I love that it isn’t. I love that Will & Grace has been that lifeline for so many people, has allowed them to see themselves in something that reaches millions, has brought people together. I love that it came back to be these things for a whole new round of fans. And now that the age of revivals and reboots happens to coincide with the age of streaming services, I hope it will continue to reach new audiences, so that it can gift all of these wonderful things to them as well.
Soon, I’ll be writing up my last recap of the series, something that I admittedly thought I’d be doing somewhere further down the line. The thought of having to put into words what the last moments of this show mean to me absolutely makes the end as a whole hit a little harder; I will surely be a wreck when I’m writing it, and if I’m being honest, I wouldn’t have it any other way. But before I hang my recap hat up for good (for this show, anyway), I wanted to take a moment in the aftermath to give a heartfelt thank you to everyone involved with Will & Grace. Thank you for 52 episodes I never dreamed I’d have. Thank you for continuing to bring the laughs. As cliché as it sounds, thank you for everything. I’ll never have enough words to say how much this show means to me or explain everything it has done for me, but I can say that I would not be the person I am today without having it in my life. I will carry everything it has given with me for the rest of my days.
I can’t possibly think of a better gift than that.