Will and Grace – A Gay Olde Christmas
By: Kelly Kearney
Grab some mistletoe and jingle those bells its Christmas time with “Will and Grace!” Much like their previous holiday episodes, A Gay Olde Christmas serves up a delicious abundance of glittery cheer with a lesson that’s as timeless as ever. It’s a step back in time for our fabulous foursome, to turn of the century New York, where the closets were full, mouths were hungry, and men sailed the open seas in search of love.
Christmas Cheer is on the Decline
It’s Christmas in New York, and Will (Eric McCormack) and Grace (Debra Messing) are doing what any self-respecting New Yorker does on the holiday, avoiding their families for a friendly dinner in an upscale restaurant. After being told by hipster Javier Bardem (Mitch Silpa) that the wait is an hour and growing by the minute, Will decides he isn’t really in the mood for celebrating. Even Jack (Sean Hayes), post gift exchange with Karen (Megan Mullally) and sporting a full-length fur coat in 60-degree weather can’t pull the lawyer from his funk. Will Truman has given up on Christmas and its not just the long wait that has turned him off its society’s ebb and flow of civility that has him in the dumps. He wonders if the holidays of the past were better because what we’re serving up today, leaves a bitter taste in his mouth.
Hungry and facing a long wait, the group decides to forgo their Christmas dinner and head home, but first, a stop off at the Immigrant Historical Society. Grace needs to use the restroom and per museum rules, no tinkle without a ticket for the magical history tour. With their tickets purchased, Grace takes off to relieve herself while Will peruses the museum’s literature about old New York, and he’s starting to fall back in love with the city that never sleeps.
Much to their dismay, the museum worker (Brian Posehn) wasn’t kidding and leads the friends through a door to start their tour. It’s a look back at Christmas in the year 1912, with Carolyn O’Sullivan (Megan Mullally), an Irish immigrant and mother of six who bares a strong resemblance to Karen Walker. Carolyn is all the Walker boozy shade with none of the money, as we soon see when the hung-over woman hands her hungry brood a breakfast onion. “Pour me a drink Smitty,” she says to her Tiny Tim looking eldest son and just like his modern-day counterpart, Smitty the boy has a great sense of humor. The young boy has awful news about the death of their neighbor and true to form, Carolyn finds this story hysterical.
Its tough days for an Irish immigrant and Carolyn is having problems coming up with the rent while worrying her billionaire landlord Billem, will toss her family out into the streets. Pondering what to do over her morning shot of hooch, Carolyn gets interrupted by a familiar man at the door named John Patrick (Sean Hayes) who’s in need of a bed to rent. John Patrick and Carolyn immediately click when he bursts into her house calling her fabulous. John could be the answer to Carolyn’s rent prayers there’s just one very typical problem, John has no money, but he is merry and does have loads of gay cheer. As the two get to know each other a little better, they’re interrupted by a knock at the door. Carolyn panics and sends her children into the closet to hide. It could be their landlord Billem (Eric McCormack) looking for the rent and he is unaware she has six hungry mouths to feed. Of course, it is Billem and just like Will he’s melting Christmas excitement with his salty attitude. That is, until he sets his eyes on John and his muscular physique. Billem might have a wife named Fanny (Debra Messing) at home but he is more than interested in John Patrick’s fanny while still trying to remain professional albeit closeted. He tells Carolyn that if she doesn’t pay the rent by sundown, he will toss her out into the cold streets.
Billem and Fanny
After threatening the O’Sullivans, Billlem heads home to find his wife Fanny sitting under a family portrait of Debbie Reynolds while indulging herself in the newest confectionary delight, Oreos. It’s a good thing Fanny has food to occupy her time because Billem has his wife on a tight leash. Unlike your average marriage, the two don’t share a bed yet Billem still thinks his wife’s job is to keep her husband happy, in a non-sexual way of course. Problem is, Fanny has bigger aspirations than a loveless marriage filled with sandwich cookies she wants to design people’s homes but Billem won’t have it. The billionaire thinks a working wife makes him look less like a man and laughs at her career dreams. Billem is as gay as Will Truman at a pride parade and its obvious when he starts stroking his cane and worrying about John Patrick out in the cold if Carolyn doesn’t make rent. Fanny, just like Grace, Lets her husband know that she doesn’t approve of him sending the O’Sullivan’s out to the streets on Christmas and Hanukkah but Billem is a businessman and only cares about money…and John Patrick’s cold yet, strapping body. With sundown quickly approaching, the Scroogey landlord leaves to collect the rent and Fanny stays behind to discover the glorious combination of Oreos and milk.
Back at the O’Sullivan’s, Smitty sold his wooden leg and still, they are ten dollars short on the rent. Luckily, John Patrick is back with some news that might help Carolyn with her Billem problem. He tells her he heard through the grapevine that Billem is, “a sweeper of chimneys. A snake charmer. He only travels by tunnel. He’s a mustache bumper. Rubs the silverware without a cloth. Plays the flute of the damned. HE’S A HOMO!” It takes a while for Carolyn to get it but when she does she is shocked to hear her married landlord is gay, she can hardly believe it. John Patrick assures her he knows gay when he sees it, after all, he’s a navy man. Many lonely nights he found companionship by throwing his fishing line over the others side of the boat. Of course, the laws of the sea are different and just because you sleep with men doesn’t mean your gay, “just a wee bit queer.” John Patrick offers to do Carolyn a solid since she’s been such a good friend and the two plot to seduce the billionaire into giving the immigrant woman some slack.
After a hilarious run in with Charlie (Leslie Jordan) the paper boy and a wink and a nod to his apprentice Benji, Billem shows up to the O’Sullivan’s with Fanny, putting a kink in John and Carolyn’s seduction plans. Thankfully, Carolyn’s no name baby (in case it doesn’t survive the year) cries from the closet and distracts Fanny long enough so John Patrick can tempt Billem into an indecent rent proposal. As Fanny catches some fashion shade from Carolyn, Billem and the navy pro are out in the hall making a boot knocking ruckus. Fanny is clueless to her husbands closeted sexuality, but Carolyn knows that John Patrick is putting the spirit of Christmas inside Billem… literally. The plan works because when the two men wander back to the apartment with their shirts undone and smoking a cigarette, Billem gives O’Sullivan the good news; she has an extension on her rent. Fanny is proud of her husband after all, Carolyn’s children are forced to live in a closet and while that’s a place Billem might be used to, it’s no place for kids. Immigrants have it hard, whether they’re Irish or Jewish but especially if they’re women and Fanny gives Carolyn hope that one day thigs will get better, it just might take a while. It’s a message of hope and Christmas spirit and its something that Will and Grace have been trying to remind us of ever since the first episode of the reboot: Life is hard now, but people are resilient and good times are always around the corner.
Back to the future
Around the corner was right because when the Immigrant tour is over, Will, Grace, Karen and Jack have a new appreciation for Christmas and their modern-day life. Even though Carolyn O’Sullivan was tossed in prison, John Patrick died at sea, Billem lost his fortune to the sodomy laws and Fanny the suffragette was murdered, the four friends learned something about themselves; looking forward is better than looking back. They’re blessed to have the love of good friends and the freedom to be who they are outside of Billem’s comfy closet. Jack says it best, “the arc of history is long and bends towards justice,” and while he’s really referring to his own anatomy, he unknowingly hits the nail on the proverbial head, happy days will come again.
After finding out Grace used the museum prop toilet to relieve herself, the four friends run to the streets laughing and hugging as the clock strikes midnight. Its officially Christmas! It starts to snow, and Jack thinks Karen granted his fluffy white wish, something that confuses her since the two friends have vastly different definitions of snow. They’re mood is joyful, and Grace starts to feel the urge to express her happiness in song. “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” she sings while Karen and Jack retreat from her caterwauling, Will stays by his besties side. It wouldn’t be Christmas without Will cringing through a Grace Adler sing-a-long and while show bloopers scroll across the screen I’m reminded to add the, “Will and Grace,” reboot to my list of things to be grateful for in 2017. In a year where many felt hopeless and smiles were few and far between, its amazing that one television show can remind us all that love, laughter and hope is what makes this life worth living. So, don your gay apparel and keep your spirits high, 2018 is right around the corner with another season of, “Will and Grace,” and that’s something we can all look forward to.