Will and Grace was supposed to have been cancelled at the end of its seventh season, but somehow managed to hang on for an eighth and final year. To improve its flagging ratings (the series had dropped from ninth place in 2001 to a miserable 61 five years later), NBC moved the show to a new timeslot, sequestered among the network's most successful sitcom offerings. As a ratings gimmick, two of the episodes--including the season opener--were telecast "live," a ploy that had worked wonders for such previous offerings as ER and Drew Carey. The festivities begin as gay attorney Will (Eric McCormack) tries to keep the snobbish but emotionally fragile Karen (Megan Mullally) from finding out that her wealthy ex-husband Stan, believed dead, is actually still among the living. At the same time, Will's erstwhile straight roommate Grace (Debra Messing) toys with the possibility of compromising her values by beginning an affair with her old flame Tom (Eric Stolz), who happens to be married. Also, Will's flamboyantly gay pal Jack (Sean Hayes) launches the latest phase of his checkered showbiz career as host of his own TV series, "Jack Talk." This last-mentioned device seems to have been contrived purely for the purpose of spotlighting Season Eight's most highly publicized celebrity guest star Britney Spears, gloriously miscast as an ultra-right-winger with whom Jack is forcibly teamed on the air. Other well-known actors passing through during this season are Andy Richter as one of Grace's blind dates, Richard Chamberlain as an elderly homosexual whom an altruistic Will "adopts," and Debbie Reynolds, who after a long absence returns as Grace's overbearing mother. This is also the year in which Will enters into a new romance with James Hanson (Taye Biggs), whom he meets at a Sound of Music singalong, and with whom he shares his first serious onscreen kiss (a piquant moment which, like the Britney Spears appearance, was noisily overhyped by the NBC publicity department). Though Will eventually returns to his police-officer boyfriend Vince (Bobby Cannavelle), Grace generously offers to marry the foreign-born James so he won't be deported--only to discover on the eve of the wedding that she is pregnant, the result of a one-night stand with her ex-husband Leo (Harry Connick Jr.! Likewise receiving a visit from Mr. Stork are Will and Vince, the proud parents of baby Ben--actually the issue of a most surprising sperm donor. Season Eight's various and sundry loose plot strands are neatly wrapped up in the series' now-famous final episode, set twenty years in the future. Though Will & Grace was clearly on its last legs, the series still managed win two more Emmy awards, making a total of sixteen. The lucky recipients this year were supporting actors Megan Mullally and Leslie Jordan, the latter cast as Karen's perennial adversary, closeted Republican Beverly Leslie.