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'Will & Grace' Leaves on a High Note

It was a funny & satisfying conclusion for "Will & Grace" Thursday as the NBC sitcom ended its eight-season run by looking ahead more than 20 years.

"You know what's funny? We haven't changed a bit," said a slightly grayer Will (Eric McCormack) to Grace (Debra Messing) and their pals Karen (Megan Mullally) and Jack (Sean Hayes), as they toasted themselves in a neighborhood Manhattan bar.

Go no further if you don't want to know the details.

Bottom line: The gay guy and straight girl who were so much in love successfully navigated their incompatibilities, ending up bonded by marriage after all: Will's son to Grace's daughter.

At the start of the hour-long finale, Will (in the present) was making good on his pledge to care for pregnant Grace. He planned to help her raise the child.

But then Leo (Harry Connick, Jr.), Grace's ex-husband, unexpectedly arrived from Rome to say he wanted her back — finding, much to his surprise, that she was pregnant with his child.

Flash forward two years: Grace and Leo and their little daughter, Lila, were together and happy.

Will and his partner, Vince (Bobby Cannavale), were together with Ben, their little boy.

But Will and Grace hadn't spoken in two years. They were angry, feeling that somehow each had deserted the other.

Karen and Jack (as they shared a bubble bath and conversed on cell phones) fretted about this estrangement.

"Sometimes it seems like our sole purpose in life is just to serve Will and Grace," Karen declared.

"Right," Jack agreed indignantly. "It's like all people see when they look at us are the supporting players on `The Will and Grace Show."'

They plotted to bring the unsuspecting former best friends back together. The plan worked.

"I am so sorry I hurt you, Will," Grace said. "But I'd be lying if I said I regret what happened. And I don't think you do either."

"God, you're right," said Will. "Grace, I don't want to fight with you anymore."

But despite their having made up, their lives — and respective families — took them on separate paths.

Then, some 18 years further into the future, college students Ben and Lila were moving into dorm rooms across the hall from one another. They met. Sparks flew. Their parents Will and Grace were reunited once more.

"I still can't believe our kids are getting married," Will told Grace as they chatted on the phone while they each watched TV, just as they did from the first episode of "Will & Grace" in 1998.

And what of Karen, the boozy, rich Manhattan diva, and Jack, her outrageously gay buddy?

We see them, also 20 years in the future, contentedly living together in luxury.

"Isn't it funny how we've been with each other longer than we've been with any of our husbands or boyfriends?" chirped Karen. What's more, Jack and Karen were caring for — and still trading barbs with — Rosario (Shelley Morrison), Karen's wisecracking maid.

A sitcom about a gay man and a straight woman linked in every way but physically was a radical idea when "Will & Grace" premiered. But it quickly caught on and built into a hit, with nearly 200 episodes.

At its peak in the 2001-02 season the series drew an audience of more than 17 million, though its popularity tapered off in recent years (this season it has averaged 7.8 million viewers).

But even at the end, the characters were true to themselves, the affection between this Fab Four was palpable, and the banter remained razor-sharp.

On the phone, Will voiced his doubts about the dress Grace planned to wear to their kids' nuptials.

"I'm not crazy about the trim," he said.

"Will," she shot back, "you never were."