The show debuted on American television in 1998 and was an immediate smash hit. A trendsetter in bringing gay characters to mainstream television, the show focuses on lawyer Will Truman and his friend since College, interior designer Grace Adler. Once engaged to be married, Will realized he was gay early in college and broke it off.
When the show debuted the pair started living as roomates in New York City. Will has just come out of a long-term relationship which ended sourly. The two of them spend a lot of time with one another as well as with friends Jack McFarland, a flamboyantly effeminate, struggling stage actor, and Karen Walker, a millionairess lush and Grace's personal assistant (a job she took to entertain herself.)
The show follows both Will and Grace's attempts to establish romantic relationships without sacrificing their often co-dependant reliance on one another for emtional support. (A common joke finds Jack and Karen referring to Will and Grace as "non-sexual life partners.) Eventually Grace moved into her own apartment in an attempt to put some distance between the two of them and establish a chance for the characters to date.
Grace has had several lovers on the show, portrayed by actors such as Woody Harrelson and Gregory Hines. Eventually she married Leo, played by singer and sometimes actor Harry Connick, Jr. Will has been less successful romantically, a fact lamented by GLBT fans who long to see a gay man portrayed on television in a happy relationship.
Meanwhile the supporting characters of Jack and Karen have grown cattier and more spiteful, providing ascerbic commentary into the neurotic behaviour of the title characters. Jack, whose floundering one-man show and acting career has been established as a hopeless dream, found work in retail sales and eventually married Karen's maid and long-time friend Rosario in order to help her establish American citizenship. It was also revealed he had fathered a son many years prior (with a woman played by Rosie O'Donnell. Karen is played as a woman who has made hard choices in life in order to live the carefree way she chooses. She often reluctantly reveals intense emotion about rough situations (such as the death of her husband) when she prefers to put on a face of cruel indifference and obliviousness.
As of 2003 the show remains popular and continues to draw in high ratings and press attention. It has also been heralded as responsible for opening the door to a string of gay themed television programs such as Queer Eye for the Straight Guy and Boy Meets Boy.