Will & Grace
strode into its third season with the kind of cultural cache TV executives would kill for. These 22 episodes are littered with hip celebrity guest stars, from Ellen DeGeneres to Sandra Bernhard to Cher, and the performances of the core quartet--Debra Messing, Eric McCormack, Karen Mullally, and Sean Hayes--became more comically exaggerated as they risked pushing their characters (already riddled with neuroses and snippiness) into the realm of caricatures. But due to clever writing and confident, full-throttle performances, it doesn't matter. Even when Jack and Karen's high-handed behavior go beyond anything recognizably human, audiences love them all the more; no matter how high-strung Will and Grace become, their well-honed rapport keeps them engaging and lovable.
Wisely, the writers swiftly returned the pair to roommate status and got Grace out of her ongoing relationship with Will's former boss (Gregory Hines), bringing the show's focus back on how the pair sublimate their love lives with the cozy intimacy of friendship--one particularly strong episode flashes back to how they first met in college, replete with godawful 80s fashion. But, as ever, it's Jack and Karen who up the comic ante; Mullally and Hayes are shamelessly self-absorbed and shallow, exploiting and abusing everyone around them. Jack forces Will to play Cyrano, feeding him pick-up lines over his salesperson headset; Karen, worried that some experimental plastic surgery might turn out badly, manipulates another socialite into getting it first. Not all plotlines fly--Grace gets into a relationship with an obnoxious neighbor (Woody Harrelson) that never becomes more than stunt-casting--but the racy wit flies fast and furious, the slapstick is topnotch, and Karen's hairdo towers magnificently. --Bret Fetzer
23 episodes on 4 DVDs. 2000-01/color/NR/fullscreen.