A big chunk of the debut edition of “Megyn Kelly Today” was devoted to plugging the reboot of “Will & Grace,” which hits the airwaves Thursday night. The host couldn’t have made plainer her affection for the program as she welcomed the four main cast members onto the couchified set of her program. “I, like so many of you, also watched ‘Will & Grace’ religiously,” said Kelly. “My favorite episode ever was when Jack was the backup dancer at Karen’s wedding for J-Lo. I have never laughed so hard in my life.”
The chat between Kelly and Eric McCormack (Will), Debra Messing (Grace), Sean Hayes (Jack) and Megan Mullally (Karen) was just what you’d expect of an NBC morning program covering an NBC evening program. “The chemistry is still there. Everything is still clicking,” said Kelly. “It doesn’t get full-on political but it gets political in the way only ‘Will & Grace’ can. You know, they skirt around the edges and singe; they don’t burn.”
Earlier in that same program, Kelly had declared that she was “done with politics for now,” a message that she sent in her pre-debut media interviews. In one notable moment, she told TVNewser, “Must everything be political? Everything? EVERYTHING!”
Apparently so. On Tuesday, Messing received a note on Instagram from someone taking issue with her appearance on Kelly’s program: “But why did you guys do the Megyn Kelly show? That’s a fail!!” Messing didn’t take issue with that assessment: “honestly I didn’t know it was MK until that morning. The itinerary just said Today Show appearance. Regret going on. Dismayed by her comments.”
What comments? Perhaps Messing was referring to the moment when a “Will & Grace” superfan named Russell Turner stepped out of the audience and shared greetings with the show’s cast. “Is it true that you became a lawyer — and you became gay — because of Will?” Kelly asked Turner.
The woman determined to eschew politics wasn’t really suggesting that being gay was a choice, right? Right, or so it appeared — after all, Kelly made ample reference to the role of “Will & Grace” in advancing gay rights. Turner didn’t appear to read anything into it. “I look at Will Truman and I’m like, ‘He has it made!’ Lawyer, best apartment in New York City, and gay? Come on, trifecta,” said the fan, who received airfare, hotel and tickets to sit in the studio audience at a “Will & Grace” taping. “I don’t know about the lawyer thing, but I think the ‘Will & Grace’ thing and the gay thing’s gonna work out great,” said Kelly, summing things up.
Messing retweeted a positive review that Hayes put on Twitter:
Perhaps the session didn’t sit well with Messing. Many folks called Kelly’s remarks awkward. And if the television personality had said something similar back in her days at Fox News, it may have just slipped by. The audience that she’s chasing at “Megyn Kelly Today” is a different world: Less conservative, more female.
On Tuesday morning’s program, Kelly fielded a question about the protests in which NFL players kneel during the national anthem. “Would you take a knee, Megyn?” asked an audience member. She ducked. “I would never be at a sporting event,” she replied. “Those players have every right to take a knee and those who object to it have every right to object … I just sort of think, ‘Go USA.'”
So politics will be closing in on Kelly.
And so will the professional reality of morning television: All that glib, smiley, funsy-funsy talky television looks like a layup. There are Kathie Lee and Hoda, chatting a mile a minute about television, sunsets, wine or whatever else pops into their very nimble heads. There are Kelly and Ryan, doing pretty much the same thing. These folks can go. Despite appearances, however, it’s actually not that easy, especially when you’re doing it alone, as is the host of “Megyn Kelly Today.”
Expect more slip-ups as Kelly attempts to master this new format. Cross-examining Donna Brazile on whether she shared debate questions with the Hillary Clinton campaign isn’t the same as making medium-size talk with a television watcher. And the kicker: Many of the people she’s now trying to reach despise the work of her former employer. Benefits of the doubts will not be accorded.