Judge Brett Cullum says this set is "Just Jack"... as in "just jack-squat for extras."
Our reviews of Will And Grace: Season One (published March 2nd, 2004), Will And Grace: Season Two (published May 13th, 2004), Will And Grace: Season Three (published November 17th, 2004), Will And Grace: Season Seven (published February 6th, 2008), Will And Grace: Season Eight (published December 19th, 2008), and Will And Grace: Series Finale (published June 21st, 2006) are also available.
Will: You know, the female reproductive system is so amazing. It's a miracle,
really. So complex. So beautiful. Yow! What is that thing? God! It looks like
the bad guy in a science fiction movie.
After 49 Emmy nominations with 12 wins, 24 Golden Globe noms, 14 SAG awards, and seven seasons (as of this writing), you can safely say Will and Grace is a bona fide hit on television. I doubt anyone affiliated with the show could have seen it coming. It premiered in 1998, a year after Ellen busted open the closet door and was then canceled. At the time, NBC was so nervous about a gay leading man for a situation comedy that early promos didn't reveal Will Truman's sexuality. Turns out America didn't seem to mind two gay characters mixing it up with two straight women, as long as it was funny. Lions Gate has just released Will and Grace: Season Four, which comes from the show's 2001-2002 run, and contains twenty-five episodes of one of the show's strongest seasons. But alas, we get the "same old, same old" in both content and DVD treatment.
Facts of the Case
Season Four of Will and Grace starts off as Will Truman (Eric McCormack, Free Enterprise) returns from France without a boyfriend, but with a very sexy pair of "perfect" jeans that may or may not be from a women's department. Meanwhile, Grace Adler (Debra Messing, Along Came Polly) continues to date Nathan (Woody Harrelson, Cheers) rather successfully. At least until their disaster of an engagement ends things abruptly. Jack McFarland (Sean Hayes, Pieces of April) struggles to get used to the idea of having a twelve-year-old son who's straight (played by Michael Angarano, Sky High). Karen Walker (Megan Mullally, About Last Night) deals with her husband Stanley (never actually seen on the show), who is incarcerated for tax evasion. Throughout Will and Grace: Season Four doors get slammed, furniture gets walked on, boobs end up in faces, laughs get out of control, Will and Grace get a bigger apartment for a week, Karen is reunited with her con artist mother, Jack debates to give up show biz to be a retail Queen at Barney's, Karen flirts with a wealthy man, Will and Grace decide to have a test tube baby, and Cher appears as God. Pretty much what you would expect from a season of Will and Grace.
Will and Grace has never varied from the basic premise set up in its first season. Oh sure, things change for the gang now and then—but never permanently. It has been a formula for success, and the writers of the show have kept on feeding us snappy one-liners while the cast has shown their immaculate timing with physical comedy. There have been debates about the show, including conservatives who think the show is making light of an aberrant lifestyle and gay activist groups who protest the lack of real sexuality in the sitcom. The truth is everyone should lighten up, and realize the show is just too damn funny to bother with hefty political statements. Friends never tackled heady social commentary, so why should Will and Grace? The fact that it's there is enough of a social statement—it proves America can embrace the idea of gays being out and on the television. It's the kind of show the gay community can share with their parents, and never worry about an intense sex scene like those found on Showtime in Queer as Folk or The L Word. It's also the kind of show straight people can watch and chuckle at without having to identify with the characters. It's the perfect fluffy sitcom, and that's just fine by me.
Probably the most amazing aspect of Will and Grace has always been the caliber of guest stars they manage to rope in every year. Will and Grace: Season Four features guest appearances from Woody Harrelson as Grace's boyfriend, Parker Posey (Waiting for Guffman) as a coked-out floor manager at Barney's, Michael Douglas (Basic Instinct) as a gay cop after Will, Glenn Close (Fatal Attraction) as a crazy photographer, Matt Damon (Good Will Hunting) as a straight guy in a gay choir, Cher (Chastity) as God, Blythe Danner (Gwyneth Paltrow's mom) as Will's mom, Debbie Reynolds (Carrie Fisher's mom) as Grace's mom, Sydney Pollack (Tootsie) as Will's dad, Sandra Bernhard (comedienne) as herself, Suzanne Pleshette (The Bob Newhart Show) as Karen's con artist mother, Molly Shannon (Superstar) as Grace's crazy friend, Adam Goldberg (The Hebrew Hammer) as a homophobic bully, Eileen Brennan (Clue) as Jack's acting teacher, Lainie Kazan (My Big Fat Greek Wedding) as Aunt Honey, Beau Bridges (Airplane) as Grace's father, Helen Slater (Supergirl) as Will's sister, Lesley Ann Warren (The Limey) as Will's father's mistress, Rosie O'Donnell (comedienne) as Bonnie, and Rip Torn (Freddy Got Fingered) as Karen's potential suitor. Not many shows can boast this kind of cast for their guest stars, but Will and Grace has become the show to appear on over the years.
The DVD set provided by Lions Gate is fine on its technical presentation. The fullscreen transfers are crystal clear without many defects, other than looking consistently a little soft. The stereo English track is exactly like the television broadcasts. You really don't get any upgrades in either visual or audio delivery, but it is of a good quality. Each twenty-two minute episode is divided into a good amount of chapters, so you can skip around over credits or to a specific scene with ease. The menus include the theme song and clips from the show.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
The extras are a little disappointing, especially when the box of Will and Grace: Season Four promises that it's "Loaded with extra features!" There are no commentaries, and no features about the making of the show. Instead we get a gag reel on the third disc, and a series of clips on the fourth one revolving around themes, like "Fashion Quips" and "Let's Get Physical." Truth is all of these elements were assembled for a clip show that airs annually during each season of Will and Grace. At least this time the shows are delivered in broadcast order (a problem on the previous set), but there is hardly anything extra to be found in this package.
These Lions Gate sets are being released slowly here in the US. In Europe they are up to the sixth season of the show already, but here we are waiting a year or more between sets. It seems odd they are taking so much time for each season when you consider the extras are not hard to come up with. I could understand the delays if they were cranking out some value-added features or commentaries, but truth is these sets are just the shows on the discs without any augmentation. Why can't they move more quickly?
Will and Grace is what it is, and the same can be said for Will and Grace: Season Four. The set should please fans looking for more episodes of the show, but doesn't really offer much that is new. It looks and sounds fine, but it offers little in the way of extras. Basically, it plays it safe.
Guilty of staying silly and safe for seven years and counting, Will and Grace are free to go on never changing their formula for success. I hope later seasons get more aggressive extras, but Will and Grace: Season Four is guilty of playing by the same set of rules as the sitcom it presents.
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