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"Will & Grace" is returning to TV for a limited 10-episode run.

The show debuted in 1998, near the end of what Entertainment Weekly dubbed "The gay '90s." It was another effort for NBC to capitalize on what Miami University media professor Ron Becker dubbed "the Slumpy class" — socially liberal, urban-minded professionals. Through eight seasons and more than 180 episodes, that's exactly what "Will & Grace" did.

If you missed "Will & Grace" the first time around. Here's a refresher.

Will (Eric McCormack) and Grace (Debra Messing) are a former couple turned best friends turned roommates. Will is gay and an attorney. Grace is straight and an interior designer. The cast is rounded out by Jack (Sean Hayes), their flamboyant friend who dreams of stardom; Karen (Megan Mullally), who is technically Grace's assistant but usually gets intoxicated and hangs out; and Rosario (Shelley Morrison), Karen's loyal maid. They laugh, they cry, shenanigans ensue, they fall in and out of love, the audience laughs really, really loudly: It was sitcom gold.

The cast of "Will & Grace," from left, Eric McCormack, Sean Hayes, Debra Messing, and Megan Mullally. Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images.

Though the show was campy and silly, it was pretty groundbreaking at the time.

When the show began, Will was the only gay character leading a show on prime-time TV. His sexuality wasn't mentioned in early promotions for the show (apparently even promoting to "the Slumpys" had its limits), but as the show went on, it broke new ground not just for having a gay lead but for the issues it raised.

From the episode "Whatever Happened to Baby Gin?" in Season 8. Photo by Chris Haston/NBC, courtesy of the Everett Collection.

In the first season episode,"Will Works Out," Will has to deal with his own homophobia after calling Jack a fag at the gym. Later in "Acting Out," Jack and Will go down to the "Today" show to protest a gay kiss being cut from an NBC show, and they end up kissing each other. Will gives boyfriend Matt (Patrick Dempsey) the boot after he won't come out of the closet at work in "Brothers, a Love Story."

For every affirming, innovative moment, there was camp. After all, it was first and foremost a screwball comedy. There were Cher and Madonna walk-ons. There were jazz hands. There were constant reminders for viewers that they were, in fact, watching a "gay show," even if the representations were mostly "safe" and unthreatening to the general public.

GIF via "Will & Grace."

It's been over 10 years since the show ended its eight-season run, and needless to say, a lot has changed.

Three-dimensional gay characters, while still short on lead roles, are more common than they were in "the gay '90s." In 2015, GLAAD found 35 gay, lesbian, or bisexual characters on prime-time broadcast television. That's around 4% of all characters on prime-time broadcast TV.

Since we last saw the "Will & Grace" gang, gay marriage has became legal, bathroom bills have made their way across the country, and we've elected a president whose early appointees already have a lackluster track record on civil rights.

So if "Will & Grace" wants to remain as edgy, relevant, and frankly funny as it used to be, here are five things the reboot needs:

1. Get some friends of color in the mix.

They live and work in New York City. How hard is it for Will and Grace to have some black friends? This doesn't mean they should pull a "Gilmore Girls" and flood the background with black and brown actors. I mean real speaking parts with some character development. People of color can hang with the gang too, and it doesn't have to be stunt casting. (But the writers will have to get rid of cheap shots about confusing Mexicans and Salvadorans.)

The white background is really just overkill at this point. Photo by George Lange/NBC.

2. Can we move away from food-shaming Grace?

Grace loved to eat. It was kind of her schtick. There is absolutely nothing wrong with enjoying food, but Grace's fondness for food was played up as a character flaw. She was portrayed as an almost gluttonous, emotional eater, unable to resist any snack sent her way, especially when she was down in the dumps. Yet, she remained slim and trim because while "Will & Grace" was considered envelope-pushing TV, a fat woman was considered a bridge too far. It was an infuriating aspect of the show.

Episode "Forbidden Fruit" from Season 8. Photo by Chris Haston/NBC, courtesy of the Everett Collection.

As Sadie Stein wrote for Jezebel, "It says, 'I may look glamorous, but I have the mind and soul of a fat person! And this is hilarious!' Not incidentally, this also plays into that old male fantasy: the un-neurotic guy's girl who can chow down on a steak and still look like a centerfold."

3. More representation from the LGBTQ community, please.

In the late '90s, it was enough to just have gay characters on TV. The bar has been raised. Time for "Will & Grace" to move beyond the one-note representations of Will and Jack and include more diverse portrayals of the LGBTQ community. A gender nonconforming yoga instructor? Can Grace date a bisexual guy? You see where I'm going. And ideally, those actors would be gay, trans, or nonbinary in real life. One can dream.

The show can still be silly and funny, but let's up the inclusivity and think about the types of people falling in and out of love or being the butt of the joke. AV Club writer Joe Reid said it best in his piece on the show's legacy, "For any show about gay men in a world that is steadily allowing them to exist outside the closet, it’s important to investigate the self-policing that was (and still is) happening regarding butch, 'masc,' and femme portrayals."

GIF via "Will & Grace."

4. Let's let Jack and Will be sexual beings.

On a similar note, gay characters can kiss, flirt, make out, have sex, hook up, enter long-term relationships, and in general have sexual agency. Too often, Will and Jack were essentially neuters with punchlines. If the character is gay, let them be gay and give their romances and relationships the time and weight they deserve.

Eric McCormack and Sean Hayes in Season 6. Photo via NBC, courtesy of the Everett Collection.

5. The gang can (and should) challenge President Donald Trump and his agenda.

To be fair, they've already kinda started. The cast reunited for a mini-episode last fall all about the election, but they're in a unique position to go further. In the late '90s, people saw "Will & Grace" as irreverent and subversive. If there's ever a time to resist the status quo, it's now. The 10-minute video should serve as a comedic warning shot to Trump and his ilk: If you insist on appointing, hiring, and amplifying voices of hate, then no place will be safe for you. Even prime-time network comedies.

So welcome back, "Will & Grace." I await your reboot with an open mind.

I just hope you're coming back with a story we haven't heard before. Otherwise, stay just what you are: A lighthearted, irreverent, sometimes boundary-pushing sitcom that was just fine where we left it ... in 2006.

Photo by George Lange/NBC, courtesy of the Everett Collection.

Pop Culture

Artist uses AI to create ultra realistic portraits of celebrities who left us too soon

What would certain icons look like if nothing had happened to them?

Mercury would be 76 today.

Some icons have truly left this world too early. It’s a tragedy when anyone doesn’t make it to see old age, but when it happens to a well-known public figure, it’s like a bit of their art and legacy dies with them. What might Freddie Mercury have created if he were granted the gift of long life? Bruce Lee? Princess Diana?

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All images provided by Adewole Adamson

It begins with more inclusive conversations at a patient level

True

Adewole Adamson, MD, of the University of Texas, Austin, aims to create more equity in health care by gathering data from more diverse populations by using artificial intelligence (AI), a type of machine learning. Dr. Adamson’s work is funded by the American Cancer Society (ACS), an organization committed to advancing health equity through research priorities, programs and services for groups who have been marginalized.

Melanoma became a particular focus for Dr. Adamson after meeting Avery Smith, who lost his wife—a Black woman—to the deadly disease.

melanoma,  melanoma for dark skin Avery Smith (left) and Adamson (sidenote)

This personal encounter, coupled with multiple conversations with Black dermatology patients, drove Dr. Adamson to a concerning discovery: as advanced as AI is at detecting possible skin cancers, it is heavily biased.

To understand this bias, it helps to first know how AI works in the early detection of skin cancer, which Dr. Adamson explains in his paper for the New England Journal of Medicine (paywall). The process uses computers that rely on sets of accumulated data to learn what healthy or unhealthy skin looks like and then create an algorithm to predict diagnoses based on those data sets.

This process, known as supervised learning, could lead to huge benefits in preventive care.

After all, early detection is key to better outcomes. The problem is that the data sets don’t include enough information about darker skin tones. As Adamson put it, “everything is viewed through a ‘white lens.’”

“If you don’t teach the algorithm with a diverse set of images, then that algorithm won’t work out in the public that is diverse,” writes Adamson in a study he co-wrote with Smith (according to a story in The Atlantic). “So there’s risk, then, for people with skin of color to fall through the cracks.”

Tragically, Smith’s wife was diagnosed with melanoma too late and paid the ultimate price for it. And she was not an anomaly—though the disease is more common for White patients, Black cancer patients are far more likely to be diagnosed at later stages, causing a notable disparity in survival rates between non-Hispanics whites (90%) and non-Hispanic blacks (66%).

As a computer scientist, Smith suspected this racial bias and reached out to Adamson, hoping a Black dermatologist would have more diverse data sets. Though Adamson didn’t have what Smith was initially looking for, this realization ignited a personal mission to investigate and reduce disparities.

Now, Adamson uses the knowledge gained through his years of research to help advance the fight for health equity. To him, that means not only gaining a wider array of data sets, but also having more conversations with patients to understand how socioeconomic status impacts the level and efficiency of care.

“At the end of the day, what matters most is how we help patients at the patient level,” Adamson told Upworthy. “And how can you do that without knowing exactly what barriers they face?”

american cancer society, skin cacner treatment"What matters most is how we help patients at the patient level."https://www.kellydavidsonstudio.com/

The American Cancer Society believes everyone deserves a fair and just opportunity to prevent, find, treat, and survive cancer—regardless of how much money they make, the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, gender identity, their disability status, or where they live. Inclusive tools and resources on the Health Equity section of their website can be found here. For more information about skin cancer, visit cancer.org/skincancer.

via Dion Merrick / Facebook

This article originally appeared on 02.09.21


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