So you have probably heard the news by now that, 11 years after the last time it rolled credits, Will & Grace is getting a dusting off by NBC. It’s an interesting decision that came the same day as the ultra rare, two-year renewal the Peacock Network handed out to freshman sensation, This Is Us, its one major hit of the new season.
I understand the need for something like this, what with sitcoms having so much trouble these days. I mean, aside from The Big Bang Theory, and, to a lesser extent, the Kevin James half-hour “comedy” Kevin Can Wait and the heralded ABC bunch that includes Black-ish, Fresh Off the Boat, Speechless and, of course, Modern Family, the networks are having something of a tough time with the format in recent years. NBC especially, actually, with its best new show, The Good Place, snagging just over 5.1 million viewers every week.
I don’t know if you’re familiar with how these things work, but that’s not a good number. Like, at all. There is, in fact, no guarantee that the show will last more than a single season, though NBC is known for giving struggling shows a chance to grow (see, for instance, Cheers, Seinfeld, and, much more recently, The Office and Parks and Recreation), so I don’t think fans of the show should be too terribly worried.
But back to this Will & Grace thing. I know there are those — like my editor — who believe this is a good move, but generally speaking, my attitude about these types of decisions is that they are callow and cynical. Cash grabs that trade on nostalgia and rarely offer anything fresh and new that, say, original programming might provide. I suppose you could call me naive with this thinking, and point out that the networks are involved in a death battle with cable, streaming, and, let’s face it, indifference, but just as I frown on all the remakes, reboots and reimaginings the studios ram down our cinematic throats every year, so do I lament the same trends on the small screen.
Now, obviously, there are exceptions to the rule, shows that are so strong in their take on the material that it’s worthwhile (have you seen the new One Day at a Time? Because, my goodness, you certainly should), but those are so few and far between as to be total outliers. These exceptions, in fact, sort of prove the rule that said projects turn out to be disappointments.
Still, that hasn’t stopped NBC from also announcing an L.A. Law reboot, or Netflix from giving us Fuller House, or Fox from giving us a new X-Files last year and a new Prison Break this one, and don’t forget that Showtime has an 18-episode run of Twin Peaks primed for some time later this year, too. Granted, it’s entirely possible I will watch that — or attempt to — but it will be with a jaundiced eye and low expectations.
I can readily admit that I was never a fan of Will & Grace, so of course, the news of this 10-episode run isn’t really meant for me, but I am nothing if not adaptable. If the networks are going to insist on rebooting or creating sequels to long dormant programs, I can play along and make some suggestions that, in fact, could be sort of interesting.
Here, then, are a handful of suggestions for network execs to consider pursuing as we head full bore into the 2017 TV season and beyond.
Still Mad About You. Paul Reiser and Helen Hunt are almost certainly free to reprise their roles in the NBC sitcom that ended its eight-season run in 1999. The new version follows them as unlikely grandparents, as their daughter Mabel and her family end up living with them in their Brooklyn townhouse. The ever-neurotic Paul and his shiksa goddess wife Jamie end up with very differing grandparenting styles that often come into hilarious conflict with the way Mabel is raising her two precocious kids.
My Daughter’s So-Called Life. Yes, I know Claire Danes currently has the Emmy-winning Homeland on the air (season six just premiered this past weekend on Showtime), but if there was ever a show that was ahead of its time, and which would be a monster hit now, this is it. If Danes doesn’t want to return as an adult Angela Chase, now dealing with a moody, sullen, teenage daughter of her own, that’s not a hard part to recast.
The Fresh Prince of Pacific Palisades. I don’t want to belittle the current state of Will Smith’s movie career, but if we’re being really, brutally honest, it would appear that it might, possibly, conceivably, be on the wane. Of course, if we’re looking at the glass as half-filled, we can point out that this is, therefore, the perfect time for him to reprise the role he played for seven seasons, ending in 1996, and which first allowed him to cross over from hot young rapper to eventually becoming, for a time, one of the biggest stars on the planet. In the new version, successful businessman Will becomes the Uncle Phil character, as an old friend asks him to take on guardianship of his troubled son and give him the same helping hand that Will received, a quarter century earlier. Ready made for a modern dramedy, in the vein of Parenthood or, you guessed it, This Is Us.
More Family Matters. Because, come on, who doesn’t want to see the return of Steve Urkel, 20 years later? Now married to his beloved Laura, Urkel finds his own teenaged daughter courted by a very nerdy young man who might hit a wee bit too close to home for the successful inventor and astronaut. Still, knowing what he does about how his own life worked out, and knowing how pop culture has embraced nerds in a way it still hadn’t when he was a kid, Urkel pushes the young kid on his daughter, thus unwittingly becoming an impediment in the young man’s romantic plans.
NYPD Blues. Twelve years after the groundbreaking show last faded to black (after a dozen-year run and 20 Emmy awards), Dennis Franz’s Andy Sipowicz is on the verge of retirement. He is tired and looking forward to hanging up his badge, following a long run as the commander of the 15th precinct’s detective squad. Those plans change, though, when his headstrong, hotshot young detective son Theo is placed under his command. Over two decades after the show first gave viewers a realistic look at modern policing, and with the world having changed so drastically in the interim, this is a perfect opportunity to dive back into the fray and create an “important” show.
I could go on, but these five seem like a good place to start. Mind you, I don’t believe for a second that any of these will actually move forward, but if the networks are insisting on revisiting old properties, they might as well give us something fresh and new amidst all the old.