Hey TV.com, Should I Watch 1600 Penn?

By Tim Surette

Dec 16, 2012

Thanks to the success of Modern Family, family comedies are hotter than Sofia Vergara in Saran Wrap. But who wants another uptight mom, goofy dad, dumb old sibling, precocious younger sibling, and innocent and idiotic youngest sibling living boring, regular, relatable lives? NBC, sorta! The network's latest comedy, 1600 Penn, takes the family-comedy formula and shoves it into the White House for some high-concept-yet-comforting laughs. But does it work? I've seen the first three episodes and can tell you without hesitation... MAYBE.

What is 1600 Penn about?

1600 Penn is a slapstick look at the FFOTUS (First Family of the United States). There's daddy president (Bill Pullman), stepmom first lady (Jenna Elfman), goofball dummy eldest son (Josh Gad), perfect daughter, other younger daughter, and precocious youngest son. Of course, the family humor is all under the microscope of the media attention the most powerful man in the world deserves, so little things go a long way. Too long, in fact!

When does 1600 Penn premiere?

The series will debut as one of NBC's "special previews," with the pilot airing after The Voice's final performances on Monday, December 17 at 9:30pm. After that, 1600 Penn will return with Episode 2 on Thursday, January 10 in its regular Thursday-at-9:30pm slot.

Who created it?

Josh Gad, who starred in the Broadway version of The Book of Mormon, and former White House speechwriter Jon Lovett created the show, and Modern Family producer/director Jason Winer lent some expertise to the project. But the real bit of influence here comes from showrunner Mike Royce, the man behind TNT's excellent Men of a Certain Age and a producer on Everybody Loves Raymond, who was appointed the position after 1600 Penn's pilot.

Who's the target audience?

This is an easy-to-swallow series that fits into NBC's new "broader" comedy effort as it's safe for families and just about anyone. But how will it fit in the time period following The Office?

Let's hear the positives!

The concept behind the show—the president's wacky family dealing with normal family problems in an abnormal environment—is fantastic and opens up a ton of possibilities for a new twist on a tired premise. Instead of nosy neighbors stopping by, it's the president of Brazil or some European consulate, and instead of trying to get a promotion at work, dad is busy blowing up terrorist cells. There's also a heavier serialized aspect to the show that's not normally seen in comedy, as one character's problem form the backbone of the first three episodes. I don't know if the show will really work, but I get excited about anything that's vaguely different.

What should have been vetoed?

Gad was pronounced the next big thing in show business after The Book of Mormon but holy crap is he annoying here. His character Skip is something out of an Adam Sandler movie, and he's a bit of a wrecking ball for every scene he's in. Ugh, that screeching scream, make it stop! The pilot episode is also a busy mess, with scenes that just die jokeless, but there's vast improvement in the second and third episodes as the show finds more focus.

So should I watch it or not?

Look, I'm extra tough on comedies—so I'd say stay away because I didn't really care for it. However, there was enough improvement in the first three episodes for me to believe that the upward trend can continue, so I'm going to give it a chance. Just be warned, Gad is like a Chris Farley or a Jack Black on their off-est of off days.

Can I see a trailer?

Sort of! Here's a clip instead.

What would be a good accompanying beverage for 1600 Penn?

A fun spin on something sophisticated... try dumping a Pixie Stix into a martini.

1600 Penn debuts Monday, December 17 at 9:30pm on NBC.

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  • Acrobit Dec 20, 2012

    Setting it at a "My god this is gonna suck" bar, it was only really bad when Gad was on-screen. If they shipped his character off to Abu Dhabi, or the Bermuda Triangle, this show isn't much worse than Veep, a show I like. Kick out Gad, and the show could work. *With* him, I give it 4 to 6 episodes....4 to 6 episodes more than it deserves.

  • ToddMurray Dec 19, 2012

    I watched it online and WOW it was grating and not good. I loved how they made a point at the end to say that the 2nd and 3rd episodes are SO much better than the pilot. And with a new showrunner taking over, I guess it could only get better. I might watch another to see how it improves, but Josh Gad is so unappealing, it's as if Jack Black and Jonah Hill had a baby that was born with only their most annoying, sweaty parts.

  • kapornaki Dec 18, 2012

    This was probably the worst sitcom ever! Especially Josh Gad! After five minutes of his screeching, I was diving for the remote. How can NBC go back to the White House and up a bunch of idiots, especially Josh Gad's character there? After the West Wing!!!! This was horrible. Not to mention absolutely not funny. The worst is that the cast could be great (minus Josh Gad) but the whole concept and the whole idea and the "jokes" - awful, just awful. The White House is more serious than that! It is not a place where a family of Idiots can roam around, breaking things, putting things on fire. OMG! I truly hope it gets cancelled after the first episode!

  • Watashii Dec 19, 2012

    Since there's no review article yet, I'll post here as well. I agree. There was nothing smart, or close to anything like Modern Family in the pilot. A televised tennis match between world leaders? That only happens in sitcoms like this. The fact that this was the main plot of the episode shows little promise for this show. World leaders taking advise from the eccentric son of the the presidents doesn't seem so plausible too. Some of the reasons why sitcoms like Seinfeld and Modern Family are great because they can relate to everyday normal people. This show just seems like a cartoon but harder to believe and less funny.

  • rovincentius Dec 18, 2012

    I agree with some previous users that this is bullshit, it will be cancelled in no time and Josh Gad is so boring and talentless... geez!!! I know him since Back to You aired back in 2008. Sorry, Josh sitcoms are not your piece.. stick to Broadway!

  • Muderboy Dec 18, 2012

    Watched it... HATED IT!

  • Bray90820 Dec 17, 2012

    this show reminds me of undeclared

  • modernfamily120 Dec 17, 2012

    This is the midseason show I am most excited for :)

  • Muderboy Dec 18, 2012

    Then you haven't seen it yet...

  • modernfamily120 Dec 21, 2012

    I actually said that before I saw it. I have seen it now, and I still agree.

  • cerenalgon Dec 17, 2012

    sounded like cory in the house. So I dont know

  • AndreaMcCooey Dec 17, 2012

    The premise of this show sounded funny, way back when, but now I'm not so sure I want to watch it. Might give the pilot a go, maybe, if I'm not too hungover after 12 pubs of Christmas.

  • Whedonrules Dec 17, 2012

    (1) NBC sucks

    (2) Josh Gad, fat unfunny annoying guy that network insists is funny

    (3) Scientologist-- I'll pass on this garbage.

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