Will & Grace - Series Finale
Lionsgate Home Entertainment // Unrated // $9.98 // May 30, 2006
Review by Eric D. Snider | posted June 27, 2006
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THE SHOW

Remember that long ago time of a month ago, when you watched the series finale of "Will & Grace" on TV? Well now you can relive those nostalgic times with a DVD of that same episode! Hooray!

"Will & Grace" broke ground in 1998, was an often-hilarious series for several years, then experienced a sharp decline in quality around 2002 or thereabouts. The characters became too-broad caricatures of themselves, the jokes became obvious (how many gay-themed puns can one show take?), and the celebrity guest stars -- oy vey, the celebrity guest stars.

Still, most episodes offered a few laughs -- usually from the heavily medicated Karen Walker (Megan Mullally) and her giddy gay friend Jack (Sean Hayes) more than the title characters -- and if no one cared anymore what happened in Will's (Eric McCormack) and Grace's (Debra Messing) personal lives, at least there was usually SOME reason to watch.

The final episode suffers from a lot of what plagued the show in general in its later years: too much emphasis on the shmaltzy soap-opera plots surrounding Will and Grace. Their co-dependent relationship with each other and their search for lasting romance were the cause of much angst (and audience boredom) in the last few seasons, and the finale is brimming with it.

With Grace pregnant and trying to get Leo (Harry Connick Jr.) back into her life, and Will finally settling down with Vince (Bobby Cannavale), it would seem that Will and Grace will be going their separate ways. What will become of them?

This 42-minute finale takes an interesting route. Most series finales set things up so that even if the characters are going in new directions, we know they're going to be OK. "Will & Grace" travels forward in time to SHOW us. First we jump ahead two years to find Will and Grace estranged and in need of reconciliation; then we go another 16 years forward to find fate bringing them together again; and finally a couple years later, with their friendship permanently intact.

There are some good, funny exchanges here and there, but mostly the effect of moving forward in time is jarring. We've spent 192 episodes watching four characters do their thing and now we're supposed to handle an abrupt change in the setting and tone? Why do that to your audience?

Even the usually dependable Jack and Karen aren't very funny, as Jack begins a financial arrangement with Beverly Leslie that's a liiiiittle too creepy to be amusing. That's not to mention the unrealistic way it comes about. (Speaking of unrealistic, Leo's sudden reappearance in Grace's life is ridiculous, even for a series finale.)

So it's rather disappointing, as finales go, but not wholly without merit. I can respect the show's attempt to do something a little different, and at least they didn't cram it full of guest stars. I think the finale for a sitcom should be, you know, funny, but in this case sentiment won out.

THE DVD

There are no subtitles or alternate language tracks -- which is cheap, since I'm sure the episode was broadcast with closed-captioning.

VIDEO: As should be expected from a hit series shot with state-of-the-art equipment less than four months ago, the picture is pristine and blemish-free. HOWEVER: Despite the episode having originally aired in widescreen (16:9) format, and despite the disc itself even saying "widescreen" on it, the episode is presented here cropped, in the regular ol' TV 4:3 ratio. Boo on NBC for that.

AUDIO: Dolby Digital. Sounds good. It's a TV sitcom, whaddaya want? (I'm told it aired in Dolby 5.1 and is only 2.0 on the DVD, but I'm unable to independently confirm that.)

EXTRAS: There are two featurettes included:

"The Final Bow" (13:00) takes us behind the scenes for the final episode, with footage shot backstage during the taping. TV geeks like me who like to see what stuff looks like from a perspective other than the studio audience's dig this kind of thing.

"The Last Words" (24:10) has most of the material from the 45-minute retrospective that aired immediately before the final episode on NBC. (Why they didn't include all of it -- including the clips and bloopers -- on the DVD, I don't know.) It's the cast and creators talking about how the show came to be, how they came to be involved, and so forth. Decent stuff, fairly interesting, good how-does-a-show-get-made? tidbits.

IN SUMMARY

I can think of no earthly reason for anyone to buy this. Even if you're a huge fan of the show, the episode will be included when the Season 8 box set comes out, and probably even with the same extras. If you loved the episode enough to watch it again and again, you probably taped or TiVoed it when it aired. You don't need this DVD. No one does.



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