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Throwback Thursday - Will & Grace - Acting Out

In a sentence I never thought I'd get to say in the year 2017, Will & Grace returns tonight after 11 years for it's ninth season, and I couldn't think of a better way to celebrate than to revisit one of the classic episodes of the series that in my eyes is one of the reasons why this show is still heralded as a cultural and social phenomenon.

In Acting Out, the fourteenth episode of the second season which aired all the way back in February 2000, Jack excitedly goes over to Will & Grace's apartment to watch the highly anticipated first on screen kiss between two male characters in one of his favourite shows. Unfortunately, the camera cuts away just as the two characters are about to kiss, leaving Jack disappointed and leading to both him and Will boycotting the network. Will and Jack protest the treatment of the characters and go to NBC's headquarters, but their concerns are essentially swept under the rug. Jack wants to continue his protest, but Will isn't entirely sure what they can still do. A chance encounter with Al Roker lets Jack get some of his feelings off his chest, and leads will to do something drastic - kiss Jack on live network television.

"You will never see two gay men kissing on network television."

This is a storyline that can resonate with viewers even in today's TV climate. Whilst leaps and bounds have been made in the representation we can now see on TV, there are still instances where TV viewers feel that they are not getting enough representation, and there are still instances where some networks may not give the same treatment to same gender couples as they may do to their heterosexual equivalents. There are people all over the world who still feel the same way that Jack felt in this episode, and whilst this episode or even the series as a whole was in no way perfect, it allowed a voice that hadn't really been at the forefront of a series before to be given a chance. A kiss between two gay main characters on a network sitcom (or drama) is definitely still considered a novelty. In fact I can't actually think of more than a handful of gay lead characters currently in a network sitcom (Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Modern Family spring to mind), which goes to show that this is still an important issue and story to tell.

"By doing this they are sending a clear message that the way I live my life is offensive."

The show is riddled with fetishised dialogue thanks to how Grace acts towards both Will and Jack, but the idea that they wanted more from the media that they consumed, and that they ensured that their voices were heard even if they were somewhat cynical and resigned about what would actually happen is some very important television indeed. Over the past couple of years, people have definitely been more vocal about demanding more from media, particularly with the mistreatment of characters and the 'Bury Your Gays' trope. Whilst this is slightly different, it still takes the approach that people shouldn't accept a difference in how characters are treated, and that they should be allowed to see themselves in characters on TV. That is what Will & Grace as a whole did during it's run, and what I think they will continue for the revival. They allowed the nuanced portrayal of characters that weren't really given much of a spotlight on network television at the time, and allowed millions of people to see parts of themselves on their TVs every week without being sidelined.

Acting Out didn't shy away at all when it came to asking for equal representation and giving a platform to a group of people who would have been marginalised in society. Whilst Will & Grace definitely wasn't perfect when it came to portraying race or sexualities other than gay or straight, it definitely helped a lot of people and this was a highlight in the 194 episodes that have currently aired when it comes to social commentary.

Will & Grace returns tonight on NBC with brand new episodes, but to catch up on the show and to rediscover why it's still lauded as important, Hulu are currently streaming the first eight seasons.
Do you agree that this was one of the more important episodes of the series? Are you excited for the revival? Let me know in the comments.