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Series / Will & Grace

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From left to right: Jack, Karen, Will, and Grace.

A domestic Sitcom airing on NBC from 1998–2006 and from 2017–2020, about a gay man, Will Truman (Eric McCormack), and a straight woman, Grace Adler (Debra Messing), who are best friends and eventually roommates. The show chronicles the changes that their relationship undergoes as Grace dumps her fiancé and Will breaks up with Michael, his long-term boyfriend. They are also joined by Will's "friend" Jack McFarland (Sean Hayes) and Grace's "assistant", the perpetually drunk millionaire Karen Walker (Megan Mullally).

And it's also worth noting that Will & Grace is one of the few sitcoms in which all the four main actors won an Emmy, which is remarkable! (Two of them are All in the Family and The Golden Girls, so they're in good company.) Also, it featured the final acting work of Gene Wilder before he quit in disgust at the turns the industry was taking and turned entirely to writing.

The show originally ran for eight seasons. In 2017, NBC ordered a ninth season revival with the original cast reprising their roles. The revival pulled in ratings strong enough for NBC renew it through to 2020.

This show provides examples of:

  • Accidental Adultery: Karen starts up a relationship with another man after her husband Stan supposedly dies. Stan later turns out to have faked his death, but Karen has already divorced her new husband by this time. (In fact, she requests a divorce during the wedding reception.)
  • A-Cup Angst: Grace, as often mocked by Karen.
  • An Aesop: In episode 9 of season 11, the episode focuses on bi-erasure and biphobia and Will and Grace's insensitive attitudes on bisexuality are called out by Grace's niece's openly bisexual boyfriend.
  • All Gays are Promiscuous: Played straight with Jack, averted with Will.
    Jack I go on literally thousands of dates a year.
    Will: That doesn't make you an expert, that makes you an escort.
  • All Jews Are Ashkenazi: Zigzagged. Grace hires a new secretary from Iran who gets away with answering the phone in Farsi and acting extremely unprofessionally in general, to the point she shreds plans Grace worked on all night for an important client. She is overjoyed when she discovers that the secretary is Jewish and gleefully fires her. It looks like an aversion of this trope at first glance, but the employee said she was Jewish ‘like a brisket’, which is hardly a universal staple of Jewish cuisine.
  • All Just a Dream: That Distant Finale from the end of season 8? Turns out, Karen hallucinated that.
  • Amazingly Embarrassing Parents: Grace's parents mainly, but Will's sometimes as well.
  • Amicable Exes: Will and Grace dated each other in college before Will came out of the closet. In a way, the entire show is kind of built on this trope.
  • Animal Chick Magnet: Jack used Will's dog to pick up guys.
  • Anti-Climactic Parent: Jack's dad. Later recycled for Vince's dad.
  • Armored Closet Gay:
    • Will's boyfriend Matt in the third season. He passes off Will as his brother to his boss and when said boss brings up rumors about Matt being gay he pretends to be disgusted at the idea of two men kissing.
    • The eighth season has Amber Louise, real name Peg, who is Jack's new co-host on his talk show. At first, she seems like your standard Blonde Republican Sex Kitten who supports the troops and hates gays but she confesses to Jack that she is actually a lesbian who enjoys S&M. She is only pretending to support the network's homophobic agenda for the sake of her career.
    • "Of Mouse And Men" deals with a Cuban-American baseball player named Hector who makes homophobic comments. It turns out he is actually a closeted homosexual himself.
  • At the Opera Tonight: Karen takes Grace to the opera several times throughout the series.
  • Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: Will, Grace, Jack and Karen snark at each other a lot, but they're all very good friends in the end.
  • Babies Ever After: The series finale. Taken further by a time jump where we find that Will and Grace's son and daughter meet as college freshmen and are attracted to each other, and eventually marry several years down the road.
    • This also qualifies the two of them for Best Friends-in-Law.
    • In the Series Finale of the 2017-2020 revival, Grace finds out she's pregnant (at 50!) and then Will decides he wants to have a baby with the help of a female surrogate while also helping Grace co-parent her baby. Jack also decides to have a baby with his husband.
  • Bait-and-Switch Comparison: In the first episode of the 2017 revival.
    Grace: We should just be what we've always been.
    Jack: A sad, middle-aged lady. And Grace.
  • The Brainless Beauty: Jack
  • Beautiful All Along: Barry. Everyone thinks he looks awful at first. Get rid of his beard and glasses and trim his hair and suddenly everyone's attracted to him.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Will's season 8 love interest James. At first he was introduced as a sweet guy that Will was so smitten over that Grace actually marries him so he could get his green card to stay in the country. Not one episode later, James lies about his mother dying to cut in line at the coffee shop, jokes about stealing a disabled nurse's cab, and says he broke up with his last boyfriend after said boyfriend got into a terrible skiing accident, not wanting to 'deal with it'. Not surprisingly, Will has Grace annul the wedding and James is never seen again.
  • Boring Vacation Slideshow: Part of Will's Cool and Unusual Punishment to Karen due to her throwing a wild party and trashing Will's apartment in one episode is to make her look at Grace's endless honeymoon photos.note 
    Karen: [to Will] I HATE YOU!
    Grace: Roll one - my luggage!
  • Bottle Episode: Season four episode "A Buncha White Chicks Sittin' Around Talking". The only speaking parts are the four main characters, and each of the three storylines takes place on a single set (Will and Grace at a therapist's office, Karen in the conjugal wing of a prison and Jack on stage auditioning). The therapist is the only other person on-screen, but he's only shown from behind.
  • Brilliant, but Lazy: Jack has many talents if just applied himself, such as the time he became a male nurse. He can also write really good homoerotic novels, but only when he's depressed.
  • Butch Lesbian: There is a recurring butch delivery woman character who seems to be into Grace, despite having a wife. Jack and Will also have kite-selling friends, a butch/femme couple, who Jack nicknames "Starsky and Butch."
    • Elliot's mother, played by Rosie O'Donnell, is on the butch side. The notion of a butch lesbian recurs: Grace says at a Human Rights Campaign dinner that she got her eyebrows waxed in the men's room and learned how to rewire a lamp in the ladies' room; when Jack says that he wants artistic advice from a real woman rather than a bunch of lesbians, Grace says he should know better than to stereotype lesbians, and then wonders aloud whether she can get them to fix her watch.
    • This is subverted with a Deirdre and Monet, a powerful lesbian couple involved in real-estate.
  • But Not Too Gay: A common criticism of this show regarding Will's love life. Ironic because Eric McCormack is straight but John Barrowman, who is gay, tested for the character of Will and was said to be "not gay enough," which is astonishing to anyone who has met him in person.
    • Early on in the show we see Jack's one-nighters and friends from time to time, then we never actually see Jack with anyone again until he gets together with Stuart (briefly).
  • Calling the Old Man Out: In one episode, Will finds out from Grace that his dad is having an affair with a younger "colleague" and calls him out on it. Will's dad applauds him for speaking his mind and then panics when Will says he should tell his mom about the affair. After a brief consideration, Will's dad comes clean to his mom about the affair.
  • Camp Gay: Jack, and occasionally Will.
  • Camp Straight: Played for laughs in one episode. Jack gets into a gay men's chorus. Will quips, "Is the gay men's chorus really any gayer than the straight men's chorus?" Turns out that the chorus's very heterosexual and masculine soloist Owen (Matt Damon) is posing as a gay guy so he can join the chorus on their trip through Europe: "I love to sing choral music, but there's no room for a straight guy in that world. All I wanted was to sing and be accepted, and maybe dance a little too."
  • Carrying a Cake: Happens in the episode with Will's Father's party, where Karen and Jack bring a large cake and have to walk up many flights of stairs with the cake which arrives after Jack has eaten some of it, but the party has gone to hell in the meantime.
  • Casting Gag: In the revival, Grace's father is played by Robert Klein, who previously played the father of Debra Messing's character on The Mysteries of Laura.
  • Celebrity Paradox:
    • In one episode, Grace says she knows that Will is pouting because she watches Ally McBeal and knows what pouting looks like. Before Will & Grace, Eric McCormack appeared on Ally McBeal (as a lawyer, no less!).
    • Many of the show's guest stars were mentioned/referenced on the series but didn't appear as themselves, such as Woody Harrelson, Madonna, Britney Spears, Rosie O'Donnell, Demi Moore, Minnie Driver and Matt Damon.
    • In season 5, when Jack sees Lorraine at Stan's funeral, he says, "We hate her even more than the know-it-all daughter on the Gilmore Girls." Two of Grace's one-time romantic interests (Campbell, played by David Sutcliffe and John Gregorio, played by Scott Patterson) were on that show as Lorelai Gilmore (the know-it-all daughter's mother)'s main romantic interests, Christopher and Luke.
    • One episode has Jack and Karen upset that Friends and Sex and the City are ending. Janice from Friends (Maggie Wheeler) appeared as one of the guests at Danny's wedding, Polly, while later Charlotte from Sex and The City (Kristin Davis) appeared as Vince's Fag Hag, Nadine. The same episode sees them meeting Bebe Neuwirth and talking with her about being on Frasier. Megan Mullally appeared in an episode of Frasier as Niles' Temporary Love Interest.
    • In the revival, Riverdale and its main character, Archie, are mentioned. Luke Perry, who plays Fred Andrews (Archie's father) in that show, guest-starred in the original series as one of Jack's crushes.
  • Censor Suds: Happened numerous times with Karen (and once Rosario), who was fond of bubble baths. There's even an outtake showing the director enforcing this trope by instructing Megan Mullally to pull more bubbles over her chest.
  • The Charmer: Leo, Grace's future husband and father of her child. Actually parodied in an episode where he and Grace find out Karen hates his guts despite the fact that everyone else loves him. The matter is resolved this way: "There. We're all friends now — on the surface where it counts".
  • Chew Bubblegum: From the episode "Ben? Her?": Grace: "Do whatever you want, 'cause today I'm handing out lollipops and ass whoopings, and I'm all out of lollipops."
  • Childish Pillow Fight: In "Eleven Years Later", Will and Grace have one in, of all places, the Oval Office.
  • Chivalrous Pervert: Leo has streaks of this.
  • Citizenship Marriage: Rosario's temporary marriage to Jack, and the source of a separate arc where Grace marries Will's Canadian boyfriend.
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Jack, Karen and Karen's later love interest played by Alec Baldwin. With Baldwin, we are never really sure how much of his insanity is true because there are some hints that he is indeed a government agent of some sort. Or he could just be completely bonkers.
  • Clothing Switch: Karen and Grace get drunk and end up swapping clothes. Then they end up passed out, with Grace on top of Karen. Jack and Will walk in and comment on how that image is wasted on them.
  • Coax Them Out of the Closet: Will coaxes Jack to come out when it is discovered that the latter's mother is completely unaware of her son's sexual orientation despite Jack being the poster boy for Camp Gay. Will also calls out Jack for being a Hypocrite since he was the one who pressured Will to come out to his parents and even tried to out Will without his consent.
  • Coming-Out Story: A couple of times throughout the show; there's Will's play 'Bye Bi-Sexual' and one episode that deals with Jack coming out to his mother.
  • Comically Missing the Point: When Grace tells Will that his dad is having an affair, Will is too distracted by the fact that Grace found out while at Seussical The Musical to grasp what she's saying.
  • Comical Overreacting: Most of the cast will sometimes have an overreaction. Jack does it the most.
  • Condescending Compassion: Will's mother towards Grace about Hanukkah.
  • Cool and Unusual Punishment: Karen throws a wild party and trashes Will's apartment in one episode. Her punishment? Will denies Karen her afternoon Martini (a.k.a. "dessert") — and makes her look at Grace's endless honeymoon photos.
    Karen: [to Will] I HATE YOU!
    Grace: Roll one - my luggage!
  • Dance-Off: Jack once tried out to be a dancer for Janet Jackson. Janet realizes that she doesn't need another dancer and has him compete with another more seasoned dancer in a dance off. The rival wins, but Janet decides she doesn't need him either.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Everyone at some point. Most often Will, especially in the first season. Eric McCormack went on record of saying that he was happy when Will became less of a straight man (pardon the pun) and got to do a lot more physical comedy (one of the first was when Will said something stupid to a cute bookstore employee on the phone; he puts him on hold, smacks himself in the head with the phone, screams out "Idiot" and resumes their call in less than two seconds.)
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Partway through, they started to imply Vague Age with Karen, joking that either she made a deal with the devil or was so perpetually filled with pills and alcohol that she was somehow pickled and therefore immortal. She then would occasionally make a comment that would sound more appropriate coming from a bigoted person from the turn of the last century. She refused to believe that a woman could be a doctor, and when Rosario once said that she played Maria in a production of The Sound of Music, Karen said she would have paid six chickens to see that (Rosario's response: "It was an Equity Theater, you racist bitch.") Frequently, she comments that she believes that El Salvador (where Rosario is from) is some dusty, barren South of the Border Latin Land stereotype.
  • Diagonal Billing: In addition to being staggered, Eric McCormack and Debra Messing’s credits alternate positions.
  • Did You Just Have Sex?: Karen is able to tell at a glance whether Grace has had sex recently.
  • Distant Finale: The original series finale, where Will and Grace grew apart, then reconnected when their children met at college. Retconned in the 2017 revival as a dream Karen had.
  • The Ditz: Jack, and Karen sometimes.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: One of Karen's socialite rivals gets shoulder implants and acts like she just had a baby.
  • Double Entendre: This show is built on it.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: Originally, Karen's voice was only high-pitched when she got excited. It quickly became her normal tone of voice. This is most noticeable in the pilot, but Mullally’s naturally deeper voice still appears erratically through the first few episodes. note 
  • Earpiece Conversation: Jack tries hitting on a man while working in a retail store where he wears an earpiece; Will feeds him lines so he can look smart. The guy isn't taken in, finds Will and asks him out.
  • Ear Worm: The season nine episode "Friends and Lover". Will and Grace can't stand a commercial jingle for something called "Trucks for Tykes" (a similar version of the equally infamous Kars4Kids jingle) because it's too catchy. Jack and Karen end up getting the song in their heads and it quickly drives them mad.
  • Effeminate Misogynistic Guy: Jack DID occasionally have elements of this, but it varied from episode to episode due to Rule of Funny.
  • Erotic Dream: In one episode Will starts having nightmares about having sex with Grace. He goes to a therapist who helps him realise the dreams are rooted in the fact that Grace always makes their conversations about her issues and rarely listens to him. After convincing Grace to let him talk for once Will goes back to happily dreaming about news anchor Stone Phillips instead.
  • Eskimos Aren't Real: Semi-example, Karen about an ex-gay group:
    Karen: Honey, this is a cult! Yeah! Like the Moonies or the homeless.
  • Establishing Shot: Typically of Will's apartment building or Grace's office.
  • Ethnic Menial Labor: Rosario
  • Even the Girls Want Her: Karen has a great rack. No, like, a really great rack. Gay, straight, whatever, no one is immune to Karen's boobs and the show takes full advantage of this fact.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Karen is a Gold Digger, but not a hooker. In her own way, she does love Stan, her husband.
  • Fag Hag: Grace to Will, Karen to Jack.
  • Fiction 500: Stan's company, Walker Inc. We never really find out what it does (aside from a subsidiary called Walker Property Management that owns several New York apartment buildings of various quality) or what it's worth, aside from the fact that it has left Stan and Karen ungodly rich. When Stan puts Karen on a budget, Karen wonders how she'll survive. She writes the number down for Grace, who says that Karen should be able to survive on the amount since Spain does.
    • In the revival, for Karen and Stan's divorce settlement, Stan gets a chalet in Vermont, while Karen gets Vermont.
    • In the series finale of the revival, as implied by Karen, Stan is worth 7.3 billion dollars.
  • Fake Identity Baggage: In "Performance Anxiety", Jack and Grace attend an Annie convention. Grace, who wanted to play Annie when she was a kid but was denied the opportunity, decides to live out her dream by posing as a beloved actress who played the character. Unfortunately, Grace also draws the ire of a woman whom the actress sabotaged to get the role of Annie.
  • Fake Orgasm: When Rob and Ellen get engaged it comes out that Rob and Grace once slept together. Rob tries to reassure Ellen that it meant nothing to him by claiming sleeping with Grace was "like having sex with a cricket."
    Grace: Yeah? Well I was fake chirping.
  • Fiery Redhead: Grace, on occasion.
  • First Gray Hair: Will finds a grey chest hair shortly before his upcoming birthday. He later admits to Grace that he tweezed it out of self-consciousness.
  • Flanderization:
    • Karen's shrillness and addictions, and Jack's shrillness and idiocy in the later seasons.
    • Jack's faux southern accent (particularly in the last season of the original run and the revival).
    • Grace became much more neurotic and self-obsessed, and Will became much more whiny and his Camp Gay tendencies increased, along with Jack's.
  • Formula-Breaking Episode: "We Love Lucy" was an episode in which the four leads recreate some classic I Love Lucy scenes - the Vitameatavegimin commercial from "Lucy Does a TV Commercial", the wine vat routine from "Lucy's Italian Movie", and the chocolate factory scene from "Job Switching". They used the original scripts almost verbatim and shoot the scenes Deliberately Monochrome.
  • Friendly Enemy: Beverley Leslie (Leslie Jordan), Marlo Thomas, Candy Pruitt (Christine Ebersole) and Helena Barnes (Joan Collins) for Karen.
  • Functional Addict: Karen is by far the most heavily addicted drunk on television.
  • Garfunkel: At her friend's grandmother's funeral, Grace humorously quotes Simon and Garfunkel's "Mrs. Robinson" song from The Graduate as a eulogy.
  • Gay Conservative: Beverly Leslie. ("Oh, Benji, I can't stand the sight of all this...homosexual dancing!")
    • Also Ted Bauers, who runs for mayor in one episode. Will supports him because he's a gay man, without knowing anything about his policies. Will is then horrified when at a gathering Will hosts to support him, Bauers says homeless people should be bussed out of the city, and concludes his speech with "women in the home, force those foreigners to speak our language, and if God didn't want some people to be poor, He'd give them money."
  • Gayngst: Mostly averted, but toyed with when it comes to character histories.
  • Gayngster: Parodied with the Gay Mafia, with Elton John as the Don.
  • Germans Love David Hasselhoff: In-universe with Karen; between her second and third marriage, she traveled around Asia, and once she was featured in a Japanese ad for an energy drink, she became a big sensation in Japan (so big, she's still being recognized by Japanese tourists to this very day.)
  • The Ghost: Stan Walker and his son Mason.
  • Give Away the Bride: Just before Grace and Leo's wedding (well, the second attempt) her father throws out his back leaving him unable to give her away. She turns to Will but he freaks out at the thought of handing her over to another man. Grace drags him outside and tells him that they will always be a part of each other's lives no matter who else comes along. This reassures Will enough to agree to give her away.
    Will: (near the end of the aisle) This may be a bad time to tell you this, but I'm straight.
    Grace: Don't make me laugh. I'm being photographed.
  • Good Ol' Boy: Will's biggest client, Harlan. (Soon to be ex biggest client, resulting in Will's unemployment).
  • Go-to Alias: Karen uses "Anastasia Beaverhausen".
    Karen: Anastasia Beaverhausen. Anastasia as in Russian royalty. Beaverhausen as in...where the beaver live.
  • Gym Bunny: Jack sometimes has aspects of this.
  • Hairstyle Malfunction: Karen's extension wig comes off or is pulled off in numerous episodes
  • Happily Married: In the original ending, Will and Vince, Grace and Leo. The other married couples in the show fight like cats and dogs, though.
  • Have I Mentioned I Am Gay?: The show spent a while getting Will a boyfriend while securing Grace as his soul mate. A prominent episode in the first season being one where Grace has a boring romance in the typical manner with some guy in Story A, with Story B focusing on Will talking on the phone to some guy that he liked, in an unnecessary, one-episode version of He Who Must Not Be Seen.
    • Not to mention Jack, most of the time. Sure, he's sometimes seen with a date, but mostly he's seen talking about being on or going on a date.
  • Has Two Mommies:
    • Subverted. Though Elliott's parents are both homosexual, he has one mother and one father.
    • Will and Vince's son has two daddies, of course. Will's married gay friends Joe and Larry have a daughter, Hannah. In season 3 Will and Jack turn up for a fun drunken gay party and find that all their gay friends are coupled up and have kids.
    • Nancy, the girl Elliott has a crush on. "One of my moms is gay!"
  • Height Insult: Beverly Leslie frequently had his small stature mocked by Karen. Others would occasionally get in on this with Grace referring to him as a leprechaun in one episode.
  • Helium Speech: In one episode Jack makes his voice higher with a baloon and Karen asks to try. Her voice stays exactly the same as it's already high-pitched, but she and Jack laugh as if it had changed.
  • Hidden Depths: Jack proves to be more than a spoiled Manchild when helps Will come out and Barry become a real gay.
  • History Repeats: In "Whatever Happened to Baby Gin," the next-to-last episode of the original series, Will realizes he and Grace are in the same situation they were in at the start of season 5. The two of them are about to have a baby together and Grace's feelings for Leo get in the way. The big difference is this time Grace is actually pregnant with Leo's baby.
    Will: I can not believe you are doing this to me again! We're going to have a baby together, then Leo shows up, and I'm out of the picture.
  • Hollywood Dateless: It's hard to believe someone with Will's looks, intellect, and kind heart hasn't got a legion of men competing for him.
  • How We Got Here: "Lows in the Mid-Eighties"
    • Also, "Fagmalion Part One" Will flashes back to his first time in a Gay Bar (In the 80's complete with mullets and Jimmy Somerville playing!) for the purposes of illustration to Barry.
  • Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: An odd example is provided by way of Karen and her husband, the morbidly obese Stan.
  • Hypocrite: Both Will and Grace come off as this to the LGBT community in episode 9 of Season 11, when they're introduced to Grace's niece Fiona's bisexual boyfriend, and refuse to accept bisexuality exists. Saying that her boyfriend will have to "pick a side" at some point and that the B in LGBTQ is really just a layover to either straight, (L)esbian or (G)ay. This causes Fiona and her boyfriend to storm out angry.
    • Jack is a openly gay man who's accepting of all people but hates lesbians, despite him and his targets being of the same LGBTQ community. One whole episode had Will try to cure Jack's prejudice of lesbians and fail miserably.
  • Hypocritical Humor: The show runs on this.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: In the form of Pun Based Titles.
  • If I Had a Nickel...:
    Kevin Bacon: Man if I had a dollar for every jock strap my stalker stole from me...
    Jack: You'd have $187!...
    [Kevin Bacon looks at him strangely]
    Jack: [nervously] ...It's just an expression.
  • If It's You, It's Okay: Jack is repulsed by heterosexuality, but he likes experimenting with Karen.
    • Subverted with Will and Grace. They never had sex during their relationship, but after they broke up, Will had sex with another woman, just to be sure he was gay. When Grace finds out about this, she is deeply wounded that Will didn't come to her, until he explains that he didn't want to jeopardize their friendship.
  • If You Ever Do Anything To Hurt Him: Right before Jack’s wedding in the revival, Karen gives this warning to Estefan, his husband-to-be.
    Karen: If you hurt my Jackie… I know someone who will reach up inside you, and turn you inside out.
  • I Miss Mom: In later season, Will mourns his dad, Jack mourns the biological dad he never got to net and in the Revival series, Grace's mother passes away.
  • Inadvertent Entrance Cue:
    • Beverly Leslie. Created some of Karen's best one liners.
    Karen: Gosh, honey... think I'm kinda jealous. I wish I had a handsome man visiting me at work.
    Beverly: [walks in] Well, well, well...
    Karen: Instead, I have the world's oldest girl.
    • And then there's:
    Karen: What are you having for dessert, Honey?
    Jack: I Think I'd like something fruity, with ladyfingers.
    Beverly: [walks up] Well, well, well...
    • Also:
    Beverly: [spins around in chair] Well, Well, Well, Karen Walker. So nice to see you!
    Karen: [sitting in the adjacent chair] Ah, Beverly Leslie. If you were sitting on a phone book it'd be nice to see you too!
    • Plus:
    Beverly: Well, Well, Well... Karen Walker! I thought I smelled Gin and regret...
    Karen: Beverly Leslie. You look more like a woman every time I see you!
  • Incompatible Orientation: In one episode, Grace encounters a Fag Hag who is in love with her gay best friend, Will's love interest. Having been down this road, Grace tells her that she has absolutely no shot with him whatsoever. She denies it at first before confessing why they can't be together despite their perfect compatibility.
    • For that matter, virtually the entire premise for the series ("I wanted to raise the kids to be Jewish; you wanted to sleep with men").
  • Incredibly Long Note: Jack singing "Papa Can You Hear Me?" from Yentl in "Sons and Lovers"
  • Informed Judaism: Grace.
  • It Meant Something to Me: Spoken verbatim by Diane's, Will's only female bedmate.
  • Ivy League for Everyone: Will and Grace met as freshman at Columbia, where they were also friends with Rob and Ellen. Averted, however, with Karen, who said she went to Sarah Lawrence (but could have been lying for the sake of a cheap lesbian joke,) but did attend college somewhere (it was the reason she did the dominatrix film). It's not clear if Jack went to college at all.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Subverted with Grace when Grace tells Leo that she doesn't care about his own happiness if it effects her negatively in any way.
  • I Was Young and Needed the Money: Karen once appeared in a fetish video titled Next to Godliness because she was fresh out of college and broke. She refused to appear naked but is still humiliated when Grace finds out. Grace ends up tracking down every copy of the tape and giving all but one to Karen to destroy as she sees fit. The one copy she doesn't give Karen she keeps to show Will "Evidence of Karen doing Actual Work".
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Karen, in a rather twisted way.
  • "Kiss the Cook" Apron: Jack buys a "Kiss the Cook" apron in the season four episode "Rules of Engagement". However, he apparently did not read what the apron actually said and was surprised when it said "cook", suggesting that he thought it said something much more vulgar.
  • Lady Drunk: Karen
  • Lampshade Hanging: From time to time.
    • One memorable moment was when Jack and Karen were using helium balloons to mess with their voices. Jack's went high pitched, while Karen's remained exactly the same.
    • Another funny one: Karen was using the shower in Grace's apartment and comes out with a towel around her head. She takes it off and her hair is completely dry, prompting Grace to ask how her hair dried so quickly; Karen answers "Money".
    • And in the series finale, Karen and Jack complain that they sometimes feel like "supporting players on the Will and Grace show" when their friends are acting self-absorbed.
      • Earlier, Will and Grace were arguing at Jack's one-man show, where he said "This is Just Jack, not the Will & Grace show!"
    • The episode "No Sex and the City" lampshades sitcom cliches and tropes.
  • Large Ham: Grace's mother Bobbi (Debbie Reynolds)
  • Last Het Romance: Grace was this to Will.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall:
    • The premiere of season 9, the first revival season, opened with blatantly obvious dialogue informing the audience that the original series finale was largely a dream Karen had and that everything basically remained as it always was: Will and Grace are single and living together, with no kids, and Karen's still married to Stan and incredibly rich. Jack, posing for a selfie, even delivers his question for Grace, "Got it?", directly into the camera.
    • Karen telling Jackson Boudreaux that he's not her type. Nick Offerman, who played Jackson, is Megan Mullally's real-life husband.
  • Like an Old Married Couple: Harlan observes this of the eponymous duo.
    Harlan: You sure you aren't straight? Because this sounds exactly like me and the missus.
  • Lipstick Lesbian: Rose in the gay penguins episode. Also Amber Louise, though her feminine style may be just a put-on to help her make her way in TV.
  • Live Episode: Did two in 2005, one for the first episode of the final season, and another one several episodes later.
  • Ma'am Shock: Grace tells a client about how horrible her life is becoming, including an unfortunate incident that day when she was buying wrinkle cream at Bloomingdales. It’s all for show; she’s trying to get the client to sign a better deal out of embarrassment, and it works.
    Grace: ...and this Jennifer-Love-Sarah-Michelle-Felicity-looking thing bumps into me and says, ‘Excuse me... ma’am’!
  • Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe: After Grace gets pregnant, she thinks the father was a man she met in Europe, but the man claims to have ad a vasectomy. So Karen tracks down the three other men that Grace had sex with during the trip and brings them to the apartment to get DNA samples. Then the original lover confesses that he lied about the vasectomy. In the end, Grace decides to not have the samples tested.
  • Manchild: Jack.
  • Matchmaker Failure: In the episode "Whose Mom Is It Anyway?" it is mentioned that Grace's mother Bobbi has a history of setting her up on incredibly embarrassing and disastrous dates. When Bobbi sets Will up with a guy named Andy, Grace thinks this will finally convince her what a poor matchmaker she is. However, this is subverted when Will and Andy hit it off and Grace starts fearing that her mother is giving up on her ever finding a match.
  • Massive Multiplayer Scam: Grace cheats at cards but it's Will whom their friends accuse of cheating. This leads to an intense confrontation. A teary-eyed Grace confesses, only to find out that the whole fight was staged.
  • Minor Flaw, Major Breakup: The show has this every so often. One episode has Karen falling for a servant and pretending to be one, worried he'd leave her if he found out she was rich. When he does find out, he accepts her regardless, and she gets excited and calls for champagne.
    Servant: I don't drink.
    Karen: It can't work. We're from two different worlds.
  • Mistaken for Fake Hair: In "The Old Man And The Sea", Jack tries to convince Will to join a swimming club. When Will expresses reluctance, Jack assumes it is because Will is wearing a hairpiece and tries to yank off his hair. Will then confesses he doesn't know how to swim.
  • Mistaken for Gay: In season three, Karen is down and Grace tries to cheer her up with some compliments about her appearance, leading to this hilarious exchange:
    Karen: Are you hitting on me?
  • Mistaken for Romance: Plenty with Will and Grace due to their occasional bickering like an old married couple.
  • Mixed Ancestry is Attractive: When Will learns Grace is about to dump a black boyfriend, he wonders why since not too long before, Grace was pouring milk in her cappuccino to show him what pretty colors their kids would be.
  • Must Have Caffeine: When Jack hooks up with a man who works at Jumpin Java. When the man quits his job, Jack goes into severe withdrawal.
  • My Friends... and Zoidberg: Jack would commonly address the other three as "Ladies... and Grace."
  • Name and Name: The title of the show is Will and Grace.
  • Negative Continuity:
    • Grace claims in season one that Will came out to her during Christmas break. Later seasons established Will coming out during Thanksgiving break.
    • In the first season, Will's dad says that when Will came out to his parents, he walked into the living room and said, "Mom, Dad, I'm gay, and I want to bring my boyfriend home for Christmas." From the third season onwards, the story is that when Will came out to his dad, they were in a car and his dad drove into a telephone pole. Then, at Will's dad's funeral, Will's mother says that they've never met any of his boyfriends. Though that's not necessarily negative continuity: Will could have intended to bring that college boyfriend home but the boyfriend had other commitments or something like that.
    • Early on, Will says he fancies cowboys. Grace says, "I know. I've seen the magazines." In season 8, Will says he doesn't find cowboys sexy. Mind you, he is in a gay cowboy bar trying to repel the advances of Jack's new boyfriend, so he could be just making that one up.
  • Never Heard That One Before: Will got sick of people cringing or apologizing when he told them he was a lawyer, so in one episode he tells everyone he is a tennis player. Of course, there is another professional tennis player at the party so Hilarity Ensues. And it turns out that guy really worked for the IRS, so everyone heard that before.
  • No Bisexuals: Though there are a number of bisexual characters that make appearances throughout the show, this trope is brought in dialogue a few times. Will at one point says "Pansexual? Isn't that just a rest stop on the highway to homo?". In the first season, Will and Grace are both attracted to a new tenant in their apartment building, who seems to be potentially interested in them both. They argue over whether he's straight or gay; the possibility of his being bi is never raised. In the second season, the produce guy gives Grace his number, and everyone assumes that this means he never sleeps with guys.
    • Discussed and defied in episode 9 of Season 11, when Will and Grace are introduced to her niece Fiona's bisexual boyfriend and Will and Grace, well, being Will and Grace refuse to acknowledge bisexuality being a "thing". This causes Fiona's boyfriend Trevor to throw a fit and call them out on their bi-erasure (which was a long ongoing stance on the show).
    Trevor: How can you say that Bisexuality is not real? It's right in the middle of LGBTQ!
  • Obfuscating Stupidity:
    • In the season five episode "May Divorce Be With You", Will goes up against Karen's divorce lawyer, Jason "J.T." Towne. At first it seems Jason is far too young and inexperienced for the job but it is revealed he is not as in-over-his-head as he appears when he tricks Will into providing him with evidence that Stan violated the fidelity clause in his and Karen's prenup.
    • In the season ten episode "Anchor Away", Will tries to date a famous anchorman, but he prefers to date less intellectual people. So Will pretends to be a dimmer, more childlike man - specifically, by imitating Jack, who doesn't catch on at first, but is flattered when he does.
  • Odd Couple: Will/Grace, Jack/Karen, Will/Jack, and Grace/Karen all have elements of this.
  • Old Shame: invoked Karen's dominatrix pornstar turn.
  • One Degree of Separation: In "Last Ex To Brooklyn", Leo's ex-girlfriend Diane turns out to be the woman Will slept with after breaking up with Grace to prove to himself that he he was definitely gay.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Eric McCormack's native Canadian accent frequently becomes noticeable when Will gets worked up or has to speak really fast.
  • Parental Favoritism: Will, the youngest of three sons, is his mother's favourite.
  • Parody Assistance: In "We Love Lucy", the cast recreate the famous chocolate assembly line scene from I Love Lucy. Lucie Arnaz, the daughter of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, plays the supervisor.
  • Parody Episode: "No Sex 'N The City"
  • Platonic Life-Partners: It used to be the Trope Namer for this, when the trope was confusingly named The Straight Will And Grace. The actual relationship of Will and Grace doesn't qualify. It's close, but Grace eventually getting married and having kids disqualifies them, despite being in the title. Hence the rename.
  • Perfectly Cromulent Word: "Spramped"
  • Pet Homosexual: Jack, mostly.
  • Platonic Co-Parenting: The revival ends with the titular duo buying a house in the 'burbs together, so they can move there and raise Grace's son and Will's daughter under one roof. They know others might think it's weird, but it's the best, most stable life they can provide.
  • Pretty in Mink: Karen wears lots of furs. Many are fake, but not mentioned to be in the show, so that was likely for budget reasons. It would count as Fur and Loathing, except Grace wears a couple as well.
  • Primal Scene: In the season nine finale, Will and Grace see her father and his mother having sex with each other. Grace explains that it used to happen all the time to her, since her father always put the whole family in one room when vacationing and had sex when he thought the kids were asleep, but actually weren't.
  • Pygmalion Plot: "Fagmalion", in which Will and Jack teach the Straight Gay Barry to be a "proper" homosexual, then both get a crush on him.
  • Reality Is Unrealistic: John Barrowman, a gay man, tried out for Will. Producers thought he wasn't gay enough. Which explains why Straight Gay failed.
    • Which may indicate that only Will himself is supposed to see him as such whereas he's obviously gay to everyone else, except for Grace at first.
    • At the beginning of the series, Will was pretty much a 'regular guy' except that he hated sports. We heard about how as a kid he wanted a fire engine, was envious that his brother got the better bike, and wanted a cowboy cake (though that was at least partly because he was attracted to cowboys). Then we started hearing more and more about his 'effeminate' childhood tastes and current habits.
    • Matt, one of Will's boyfriends, fits this trope: he's an athletic sportscaster. He also goes back in the closet because he's on TV now.
    • Barry. He watches football and Will gets exasperated at him for not recognizing divas and for using a baseball metaphor.
  • Reset Button: The 2017 revival ignores the events of the Series Finale, handwaving it all as a dream Karen had.
  • Rich Bitch: Karen
  • Roommate Com: The show revolves around the pair, Grace and Will. Both have girl/guy of the week dates, as well as a few more long-term relationships. Wacky building mate Jack falls more into the All Gays are Promiscuous camp, although he has a stable boyfriend for a while. Grace's secretary Karen is also a Drop-In Character and goes through the dating pool a few times despite the fact that she's married to a very rich man at the start of the series.
  • Rule of Three: Used in spades for comedic effect
  • Rummage Sale Reject: Karen sees Grace as this.
  • Runaway Bride: The pilot episode sees Grace dumping her then-boyfriend (who only proposed the day before) at the altar after Will admits he thinks Danny isn't good enough for her.
  • Sassy Black Woman: Ben Doucette's assistant Ms. Freeman.
  • Sassy Secretary: Karen is this to Grace, though she never actually does any work (not that Grace really expects her to).
  • Scenery Censor: Will's recurring habit of reading in the nude sees him holding the book strategically in front of his lap.
  • Scrabble Babble: "Spramped" and "carpouche"
  • Screams Like a Little Girl: Will, but Jack even moreso, to the point where it even goes to dog whistle range.
    • Actually, that wasn't Jack's screams, but rather his particular version of Angrish.
    • Will also does this too, as discovered when someone tried to break into Grace's apartment.
    Will: Did I just scream like a woman?
    Grace: Don't flatter yourself. You scream like a little girl.
  • Settled for Gay:
    • It's sort of the premise of the series. In the first season, she suspects that she wasn't interested in dating because she was having to much fun with her Platonic Life Partner Will. The two decide to have a baby together, since both expect to be single for the rest of their lives, but Grace decides against it when she meets Leo.
    • Karen and Jack are a more definitive example by the end of the series, since they lived together into their old age or something because neither could really hit it off with anyone (it was implied once in awhile that Jack mainly liked Will, and neither really ever got together).
  • Servile Snarker: Rosario.
  • Shipper on Deck: When Stan's will is read out at his note  funeral in "23" it turns out he left money to Will and Jack with a note telling them "GET MARRIED ALREADY!".
  • Ship Tease: Several episodes seemed to be setting up Will/Jack, particularly in the early-to-mid series, and Word of God has it that there were some romantic feelings there, particularly from Jack. Nothing ever really happens, though.
  • Sitcom Archnemesis:
    • Mr. Zamir for Grace.
    • Karen has a few: Candice Bergen, Lorraine Finster, Beverley Leslie, etc.
  • Sitting Sexy on a Piano: Karen strong-arms Will into doing this in one episode
    Karen: You wanna be my lawyer? then sing me a love song, and make me believe it!
    Will: [singing] I love you... I honestly love you...
    Karen: Up on the piano and put a little Michelle Pfeiffer into it!
  • Spit Take:
    • In the Season 4 finale, when Will tells Grace he wants to have a kid, with her, she spits out her wine.
    • The Season 9 episode "There's Something About Larry"; Grace is eating a powdered donut when Larry tells her he's in love with Will, sending powdered sugar all over.
  • Springtime for Hitler: Will and Jack volunteered to do skit for an NYPD sensitivity training seminar along with two lesbians. Jack's dislike for them ruins it and he & Will get in to a fight. It was a success because the cops thought it was all part of the show. It even convinced one of them to come out.
  • Staged Pedestrian Accident: Val jumps on Karen's car in the Season 9 episode "There's Something About Larry". Karen assumes it's for money, but later Val confesses that she just wants to be friends.
  • Stalker Shrine: Val has one for Karen in "There's Something About Larry."
  • Status Quo Is God: By necessity. So much of the comedy is premised on Will and Grace being roommates and it's exceedingly rare - especially for affluent people - to live with both a roommate and a significant other, so their relationships tend to break up before they get to that point.
  • Stepford Snarker: Will's mother Marilyn (Blythe Danner). She even lives in a WASP-y Connecticut town.
  • Straight Gay: The producers think Will is. Again, though, see Fair for Its Day. Will was a mostly-sitcom-normal guy who had the occasional camp element pop up for laughs - during a time when the world heard ‘gay’ and thought of someone like Jack. Fast forward a decade, though, and he's a Camp Gay whose buddy just happens to be doubly so. However, Will's boyfriend Vince is more successful at pulling off Straight Gay.
    • Played somewhat more literally with Matt Damon's character in "A Chorus Lie"—he pretends to be gay in order to get into the Gay Men's Chorus, but Jack "ins" him.
  • Studio Audience: Complete with "was filmed before a studio audience" disclaimer, which continues in the 2017 revival.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial, Will, not wanting to devastate his family since the time he came out of the closet, refuses to acknowledge or address that his father is having an affair.
  • Surprise Pregnancy: In the upcoming final season of the Revival series, Grace finds out she's pregnant at 50.
    Grace: It's a freakin' miracle!
  • Take That!: Numerous. Here's one example,
    Grace: Quit pouting!
    Will: I wasn't pouting!
    Grace: Please! I watch Ally McBeal. I know what pouting is.
    • The first episode of season nine is a long one for Donald Trump.
    • Similar jabs occasionally showed up during the George W. Bush administration.
  • Tempting Fate: When Karen and Lyle are together, Lyle raises the concern that Karen might have trouble getting along with his daughter. Karen confidently asserts that she and Lyle's daughter would have no problem with each other. Then Lorraine walks in saying: "Hello, mother." Karen falls off the chair she's been sitting in.
  • The Three Certainties in Life: Will tells Jack he has three things he can count on: "Death, taxes, and me."
  • Ticket-Line Campout: "Fanilow" sees Will attempting to get tickets for Barry Manilow this way. He eventually asks Grace to come hold his place while he runs to the bathroom, and then Grace calls Karen to take over when she spots her mother having dinner with Jack nearby. Karen ends up becoming a fan of Manilow after talking to the woman next to her in line. Meanwhile, Will meets a member of Manilow's road crew who offers to get him backstage if Will agrees to go out with him.
  • Transatlantic Equivalent: Gimme, Gimme, Gimme takes the same basic premise, places it into a British context, and utterly subverts it.
  • Transparent Closet: Jack in the first episode. When Jack tells some friends that not everyone thinks he's gay, Will responds that deaf, blind and dead people know he's gay.
    • Will when he was younger. In the first and even the second seasons, he was a fairly Straight Gay except for his utter lack of interest in sports. As the series continued he mentioned more and more 'girly' things he had done as a kid: needlepointing, baking cookies, watching Little House on the Prairie with his mother, spending two hours getting his hair exactly right before the family trip to The Nutcracker, pretending to be Eartha Kitt, being obsessed with Doris Day, singing love songs at school talent shows, putting on little musical plays at home, wearing his mother's clothes and, when he was ten, having them tailored! Though he did date girls in adolescence, with all this it seems odd for his parents to have been shocked when he came out at nineteen.
      • The episode showing how Will came out to Grace has her musing that she should have known in hindsight.
    How could I not have known? He was Boy George for Halloween, he has a diffuser on his hairdryer, and he's prettier than me.
    • Beverly Leslie's love of men is clear to see in spite of his lame attempts to deny it. When he finally confesses in Season 9, Karen and the studio audience barely react.
    Karen: Does your "business associate" know?
    Beverly: He suspects...
    • The married lead counselors of Camp Straighten Arrow, a gay conversion camp, are clearly a Butch Lesbian and Camp Gay who are desperately trying to deny their sexualities. Enforced by the fact that they're portrayed by the out and proud Jane Lynch and Andrew Rannells.
  • Trial Balloon Question: Leo grows bored of living in New York and wants to go back to Doctors Without Borders in Cambodia, but he has to tell Grace first.
    Leo: Grace, you'd want me to be happy, right?
    Grace: Not if it affects me in any negative way. [smiles sweetly]
  • True Companions: The group has ridiculous amounts of friction but when it comes down to it, they really are a horrible dysfunctional little family.
  • Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Stan and Karen, again. While he never shows up on camera in full (see below), he's stated to be grossly obese and balding, with bad skin and questionable grooming habits (he apparently never washes his toupee).
  • Unknown Rival: Jack refers to Jon Cryer as his "arch-rival" in "Kid 'N Play" much to the latter's confusion as he has never even heard of Jack.
  • Unlimited Wardrobe: No character ever wears the same outfit more than once. Justified in the case of Grace, Will, and Karen (all of whom are wealthy), but not so much in the case of Jack.
  • The Unseen: Stan Walker. Most of him is unseen, but his feet and hands do come into view. As with most off-screen sitcom characters, Stan is defined by a single attribute: in this case, his obesity.
  • Unsettling Gender-Reveal: Inverted. A stripper hired for a bachelor party in one episode turns out to be a trans woman. Jack is very relieved, as he was getting extremely turned on by her performance.
  • Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist: Will and Grace trade between this status depending upon the episode.
  • The Vamp: Minnie Driver's character Lorraine Finster in later seasons.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Karen and Rosario is an excellent example.
    • The entire main cast, really.
  • Vocal Evolution: Karen becomes more shrill and high-pitched as time goes on.
  • Wallpaper Camouflage: Malcom is able to hide from Karen by wearing a cloak with the same pattern as her curtains.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Jack's two pets, Guapo the Macaw and Klaus Von Puppy, were frequently seen during the first two seasons, but disappeared without explanation after a final appearance at the start of season three.
  • Where Everybody Knows Your Flame: There's an episode where Will and Jack enter what is believed to be a gay bar. Will isn't sure, until "I Will Survive" starts playing. The signature drink is the Penis Colossus.
  • Wham Line: When Will finds out that his father died of a heart attack after their big fight two days before. Some members of the audience audibly gasped.
    • In the upcoming 12th and final season of the Revival, Grace receives some unexpected news from the doctor that leaves her in tears.
    Grace: I'M PREGNANT!
  • Whole-Plot Reference: The episode that parodied The Sound of Music.
  • Why Are We Whispering?: Season 3 Episode 3, between Will and Jack.
  • World of Snark: "Sons and Lovers"
  • You Are Fat: Jack frequently mocks Will for being fat despite the latter being in excellent shape.
  • Your Costume Needs Work: Jack mistook the real Cher for a Drag Queen. He even gave her tips on how to be more "authentic".