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Will & Grace: Then vs. Now

Great news, Will & Grace fans! After a hiatus of more than ten years, the classic sitcom is back with the first new episode scheduled to air September 28. The show, which first aired in September 1998 and ran through May 2006, has been renewed for two new seasons.

When the show first ran twenty years ago, the world was obviously a much different place. To see just how different the world was, let’s take a look at what life was like for Will, Grace, Jack, and Karen in 1998 and how things have changed since then.

The hottest new tech in ‘98 was the MP3 player…and it wasn’t the iPod.

The difference between technology in 1998 and 2017 is mind-blowing. To put it in perspective, 1998 was the year the first MP3 players hit the market, sparking a revolution in the way we consume music and media on the go. It featured a whopping 32MB of storage—enough for about eight songs. The first iPod wouldn’t be released for another three years. Needless to say, we’ve come a long way since then.

These days, most people listen to their music on smartphones, which not only hold about a thousand times as many songs as those first MP3 players (if not more), but can also stream nearly any song you can think of on demand via services like Spotify and Apple Music.

But music isn’t the only industry that’s seen major advances since 1998.

Dating Apps

During the first run of Will & Grace, Jack (Sean Hayes), Grace (Debra Messing), Will (Eric McCormack), and Karen (Megan Mullally) all had numerous relationships over the course of the show. Apps like Tinder would have probably been a welcome way for maximizing the dating process, though Karen may have preferred an app more like Luxy, which matches you only with verified millionaires. These apps certainly work for plenty of real-life folks too—60% of people think online dating is a great way to meet people, according to Pew.

Social Media

Speaking of meeting people online, the characters of Will & Grace lived in a world without social media. Myspace was founded in 2003, Facebook in 2004, and YouTube in 2005. These sites would have been around at the end of the show’s first run, but they would’ve still been getting off the ground. Imagine if YouTube had been around, though—Jack certainly would have been quite a presence. He may have even given influencers like Tyler Oakley a run for their money!


In 1998, the vast majority of TVs were still the old, bulky CRT type (remember how heavy they used to be?). And the picture quality was . . . well, less than great. But the winds of change were blowing, and the first HD TV hit the market in 1998, and TVs have only continued to improve.

Fashion has come full circle (much like chokers).

In the late nineties, slap bracelets, chokers, and shell necklaces were all the rage. While not all nineties fashion fads had a lasting impact, slap bracelets are definitely still around, and chokers have recently started to make a comeback. While Jack’s fashion sense was sometimes questionable (those vests!), Will, Grace, and Karen would probably be right at home with today’s styles. It’ll be interesting to see what has changed and what has stayed the same with the characters’ fashion senses over the last eleven years.

When the show first aired, Bill Clinton was president and Justin Bieber was a toddler.

Hillary has been the Clinton in the spotlight for a while, but back when Will & Grace first aired, her husband Bill was the man in charge. He’s largely remembered as a good president, other than that one little thing in ’98 . . . .

It’s easy to forget that ’98 was actually almost twenty years ago. To really make you feel old, though, think about this: in 1998, the Bieb was four years old, Taylor Swift was nine, and Kylie Jenner was just one.

What else was happening in the world of ’98? Well, in Menlo Park, California, a little company called Google was busy getting off the ground; the Winter Olympics were held in Nagano, Japan; Frank Sinatra passed away; and Malia Obama was born.

What were the top movies and music of 1998?

The year 1998 was actually a big year for entertainment. Modern classics like Armageddon, Saving Private Ryan, The Big Lebowski, The Truman Show, and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas were all released in 1998.

The musical contributions that year were more of a mixed bag. The year 1998 came in the middle of the boy band rage, and Backstreet Boys appeared twice on the Billboard Top 100 for the year, with “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)” and “Quit Playing Games (With My Heart).” Here are some other top songs you might recognize from that year.

  • “You’re Still the One” by Shania Twain
  • “My Heart Will Go On” by Celine Dion
  • “This Kiss” by Faith Hill
  • “Tubthumping” by Chumbawamba
  • “One Week” by Barenaked Ladies

We’d argue that today’s music scene is a little more robust than the Backstreet Boys, but hey, to each their own.

The original show did big things for the LGBT community. What will it do now?

The original Will & Grace was considered a groundbreaking show for the LGBT community. It featured one of the first prominent portrayals of openly gay men and has been credited with helping to improve public opinion of the LGBT community. In fact, former Vice President Joe Biden said he felt the show had “done more to educate the American public than almost anything anybody has ever done so far.”

The community and culture has obviously grown since 2006, when the final episode of Will & Grace aired, and it will be interesting to see how the writers approach the portrayal of the characters in this new run set in a time when the LGBT community is stronger than ever.

The new Will & Grace is shaping up to be one of the biggest TV events of the last few years. Will you be tuning in? We sure will. Let us know what you think about the new seasons in the comments below!

About the Author

Dave is a freelance writer with a passion for tech and how it improves our lives. His work has been published on a variety of sites around the web.

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