Ihadn’t watched Will & Grace for a couple of years, but picked it up again a few months ago in anticipation of the finale, just to see how this intermittently maddening and punchy sitcom would finesse its exit: salty tears or salty dialogue? Both, it turns out, hewing to the tonal unevenness that this gay-man/straight-woman-times-two series has never been able to shake. Sometimes the last episode’s serious threat of a permanent rift — over whether Debra Messing’s Grace was going back to ex Leo (Harry Connick Jr.) to raise her kid, or enter into sexless guardianship with Eric McCormack’s Will — felt like the realistic ebbing of a long friendship, and sometimes those stern-faced moments played like breaks between one-liners. The problem Will & Grace never fully resolved over its eight years was whether it was situationally witty and honest like The Mary Tyler Moore Show or a loopy after-hours Noel Coward play. When it wanted your helpless laughter and your breathless concern simultaneously, it was like being in a car with clutch problems. But the finale went ahead and tried to thread that needle again, and by hour’s end I realized it couldn’t have been any other way. On the silly front, the Kevin Bacon cameo was whatever, but hilarious was the dream-sequence gag that age has ravaged everyone except Megan Mullally’s surgery-happy socialite Karen (one of the all-time great sitcom characters), who looks exactly the same. And on the sappy front, I wouldn’t have picked a serious cabaret rendition of “Unforgettable” for the defiantly unserious Karen and Jack’s last moments, and yet the happy we’re-all-together close to the strains of Queen’s “You’re My Best Friend” felt right. Hey, no one said friendships were emotionally consistent. Do all sitcoms have to be?
Scores provided by Rotten Tomatoes