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Will & Grace crash Trump’s White House in return episode to ‘Make America Gay Again’

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The return of late ’90s sitcom Will & Grace, after 11 years off the air, has proven a huge ratings hit in the US, where it was watched on NBC by 10 million people. In Australia, the series airs exclusively on streaming service Stan, which doesn’t release viewership figures.

But some conservative commentators in the US have argued that the show has alienated viewers in the first episode alone, by consistently poking fun at President Trump.

It’s true there’s been a bit of griping on social media about the intensity of the Trump-bashing, although maybe not quite as much as you’d expect. That might just say something about the demographic crossover between Trump supporters and Will & Grace fans.

In the first episode back, Will, Grace, Jack and Karen all travel to Washington and end up literally inside the Oval Office. Grace, being a staunch liberal, is conflicted over an offer to redecorate the office itself, while Will sets out to crack onto a hot, conservative, gay congressman, whose politics he can’t stand.

There are some good gags about Trump along the way: an ongoing joke about Melania and Karen’s friendship as fellow trophy wives throws forth some good comedy, and a line about Trump wanting to redecorate the office so that it looks like he’s in there from time to time is on-point.

There are a couple of easy jokes in there, including one involving a bag of Cheetos and Grace’s need to match her design colour scheme to Trump’s colouring. Okay, it’s not the most sophisticated joke and a little on the cheap side, but it’s not unfunny.

For all the schlocky sitcom styling and relentless laugh-track, Will & Grace‘s original run always had some of the sharpest comedy on TV, elevated by performers with a perfect sense of tone and timing. The show’s style feels a little more on-the-nose in 2017, but the writing is still solid and the performers are settling into the groove of their characters and interpersonal dynamics in a satisfying way.

There’s something a bit affected and cartoony about putting these characters into the White House — although arguably no more cartoony than what’s already happening in the Oval Office — but the first episode feels like a small act of resistance and defiance from the show.

While some comedies in the US are now refusing to focus on the Trump PresidencyWill & Grace went all-in for its first episode. But was that the right choice for the series?

It’s a tough line to draw: Will & Grace is comfort TV, particularly now that it comes with a clear shot of nostalgia. How comforting can it really be if its audience is constantly reminded of who’s in the White House?

According to all accounts, the comeback is the most overtly politically-focused of this new series of 16 episodes. Dealing with Trump first up seems to be the writers’ way of saying to their audience: “We know you’re concerned and we know some of you are feeling crushed by this Presidency. We are on your side. He may not be your president, but we are your comfort TV.”

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