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.
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!
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.