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Will & Grace cast survives live season premiere

Will & Grace cast survives live season premiere

The set didn't collapse. No one forgot his lines. No one fell down. No fire alarm went off in the middle of a punch line. Too bad. The cast of Will & Grace, who do a pretty slick job every week on their filmed sitcom, upped the ante Thursday night by airing the season opener live.

Sure, Debra Messing and Sean Hayes did have fleeting attacks of the giggles. In the first of the night's two live performances (this one staged for the eastern United States), Messing, who plays Grace, got tickled by Hayes, who plays the flamboyantly gay Jack. "When an opportunity comes," Jack declared on the subject of his dating married men, "I don't question it! I grab it, drop its ring on the nightstand, and swing on it till dawn!" Hearing that, Messing snickered a bit too long before coaxing out her response. And in a later scene, when Hayes removed the eye patch he had been wearing to reveal a singed-off eyebrow (it looked funnier than it sounds), he and Messing nearly lost control.

Perhaps the night's biggest surprise--presumably scripted--was a juicy lip-lock between Eric McCormack (who stars as Will) and guest star Alec Baldwin (playing Will's peculiar boss). Not bad. The scene was repeated in the West Coast edition of the live show, as were Messing's and Hayes's giggle fests. At the program's end, the cast took a bow before the studio audience, and the crew in the control booth was shown erupting in cheers.

The zany half-hour centered on the discovery that the long-lost husband of Karen (Megan Mullally) isn't dead after all but alive and well and hiding from the mob. "But we were at the funeral. We scattered a trash bag full of his ashes!" said a shocked Grace when she heard the news from Will. "Apparently that was just dirt and Rice Krispies," he explained.

Thus did the NBC sitcom begin its eighth and final season on a fun and attention-grabbing note. Live "stunt" telecasts aren't unknown for established TV series, of course. In November 1999, The Drew Carey Show staged a live improv-laced episode. Two years before that, ER produced an ambitious live hour of that medical drama. And for the entire 1992-1993 season, the Fox sitcom Roc, which starred Charles S. Dutton as a city garbage collector, produced all of its weekly half-hours live.

Next week, Will & Grace returns to its usual filmed format. And Jack's eye patch should be gone. Why, you may ask, was he wearing it? He told his friends he had suffered a mishap the night before on the set of his new talk show: "I tripped making my entrance, knocked over the light, and caught the set on fire."

Just for laughs, why couldn't that have happened on Thursday's Will & Grace? (Frazier Moore, via AP)

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