Growing up, one of my favorite sitcoms was Will & Grace. Although I didn’t completely understand the depth of some of the humor, I loved the relationship between Will and Grace and the secondary characters’ hysterical input. Will & Grace gained a cult following as a “gay TV show” and simultaneously disrupted stereotypes while presenting gay characters in a conventional environment.
Left: image from “Will & Grace, “Partners ‘n’ Crime” (Season 8, Episode 21, 2006). image from [http://www.justjared.com/photo-gallery/305231/will-and-grace-partners-n-crime02/]. Right: image from “Difficult People, “The Courage Of A Soldier” (Season 1, Episode 4, 2015). image from [http://www.avclub.com/tvclub/difficult-people-courage-soldier-224117].
The show’s narrative followed Will and Grace as they faced life in the city together. The overall construction of the show surrounded Will and Grace’s relationship between a gay man and a straight woman as roommates and the antics of their dramatic friends, Karen and Jack. In the newly released sitcom Difficult People, a similar narrative is presented. Billy and Julie similarly face experience in New York City as an unstoppable, comedic duo. Billy’s coworkers, Matthew and Denise, present a similar relationship to Karen and Jack. Billy and Julie’s characters are more developed with less aggressive stereotyping and one-dimensional portrayal, while Matthew and Denise are loud, dramatic, and do not contribute to the plot beyond their occasional one liners. Julie and Grace are both fiery redheads with a penchant for slapstick comedy. Both shows feature gay characters existing in conventional spaces, but in different historical contexts. During the fifteen years between Will & Grace’s release and Difficult People’s, significant cultural boundaries have been broken. It is now much more widely accepted to be openly gay in American culture, which is reflected in the show’s pervasive content. More importantly, gay marriage has been legalized and the celebration of equality continues to thrive. Difficult People is, perhaps, the modernized version of Will & Grace as it continues to challenge current stereotypes in a funny, realistic space.