EDITORIAL NOTE: To understand how we do our reviews, please refer to our review of Revolution, here.
The Gilchrists are just the average American family dealing with all the everyday issues – like a grown kid who’s forced to move back home, children who are smarter than their teachers and a stepmom (Jenna Elfman, “Dharma and Greg”) desperately trying to win over the kids. They’re loving, fun and a little crazy. In other words, just like everybody else. With one exception: they live in a very special house. The White House! Whether it’s entertaining foreign dignitaries, sneaking away for a night out, dealing with middle school crushes or putting out fires – figuratively and sometimes literally – there’s never a dull moment in the Gilchrist White House. For example, the First Son (Josh Gad, star of Broadway sensation “The Book of Mormon”) is one of the administration’s biggest liabilities, but also the glue that holds this family together. The President (Bill Pullman, “Independence Day,” “While You Were Sleeping”) knows too well that the only thing harder than being Head of State is being head of the family. Also starring are Martha MacIsaac (“Superbad”), Andre Holland (“Friends with Benefits”), Amara Miller (“The Descendants”) and Benjamin Stockham (“Sons of Tucson”). “Modern Family” meets “The West Wing” in this election-year comedy from Emmy-winning executive producer/director Jason Winer (“Modern Family”). The executive producers are Winer, Gad and Jon Lovett (former White House speechwriter). Winer also directed the pilot. “1600 Penn” is produced by 20th Century Fox. – NBC
Score: 85 out of 100
Initial Impressions (May 22, 2012): Yes! Our prayers have finally been answered. Bill Pullman is President of the United States, once again. This is something we’ve wanted since Independence Day… we just weren’t expecting it to happen in comedy form. Despite the limited information from the clip [above], just reading between the lines on this gives us a lot of insight as to the quality of this offering. First, you’ve got two big leads in Bill Pullman and Jenna Elfman and you know they weren’t signing on to a crap show because they can be more selective with their roles. More importantly, though, is the fact that the show is from the brains behind Modern Family which hopefully will mean nothing but good things.
Shawn: Yet another great new show from NBC. Like I said initially, when you’ve got Pullman and Elfman leading the cast and the minds of Modern Family, that should really tell you what you need to know, and seriously, NBC, stop telling us about stars on these shows that were in Broadway hits. Do you honestly think anyone watching a network television comedy on a Thursday night cares that Josh Gad was a star in The Book of Mormon? I’ll give you a head’s up on this: they don’t and in fact most of your key demographic doesn’t even know what the holy-crap The Book of Mormon is other than in the context of the teenagers in matching short-sleeved, white dress shirts, bad ties and bicycle helmets that come knocking on their door on a Saturday afternoon. The only reason I know what it is because I follow South Park and I know that it’s Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s baby.
All I need to know about Josh Gad is that he is flippin’ brilliant comedically and that is exactly what I was treated to when watching the pilot. He’s so funny that if not for how good the other performances were, I would have had ignored them completely. Pullman is fantastic, Elfman is fantastic as are the rest of the supporting cast and the show does an excellent job of portraying what appears to be just your average, typical middle-class suburban family who are now in the White House. Seriously, it’s like watching the worst aspects of your own family dysfunction play itself out at the most famous address in the world.
And yes, 1600 Penn is absolutely absurd, but it’s done so cleverly and so heart-warmingly that you can’t help but to ignore the absurdity and appreciate it for what it is: just a great comedy. Tim Goodman, resident hack at THR says that, “It’s obvious this is NBC’s answer to Modern Family,” but then again, that’s why I refer to Goodman as a hack. He just throws out whatever nonsense seems good on paper because he read the same show description we did. The fact is, though, even with the creative talents of Modern Family behind 1600 Penn, it is NOTHING like it.
Again, it’s the absurdity factor that’s the big difference. Modern Family works because of its mockumentary format in that the setup is that the Dunphys/Pritchetts are indeed a real family. There’s none of that with 1600 Penn. It’s pie-in-the-face, seltzer-down-the-trousers slapstick from the opening sequence. There’s an immediate wink to the audience and we all get it… except for Tim Goodman. Bravo, NBC.
Chance of Renewal: 80%
I seriously cannot fathom how anyone but the most tight-assed of newspaper TV critics wouldn’t like this show. But then again, mid-season comedy replacements don’t have a good history. I’m going with more likely to be renewed than not.
Watch the pilot of 1600 Penn, right now, ahead of the January 10th premiere, here. Cable subscribers, you can also watch it OnDemand, as well.