Reviews, Television
Jan 15, 2013

1600 PENN LACKS PRESIDENTIAL TREATMENT

Amongst the whirlwind frenzy that accompanies every award season, many seem to forget the “mid-season” replacement shows that typically emerge this time of year. As the surviving shows from the fall season pick up, those that received the ax are often swapped for last minute additions that often remain under the public’s radar. If you happened to miss the season premier of the new ‘family’ sitcom 1600 Penn last week, consider yourself lucky.

The show had a preview airing back in December before the holidays in a failed attempt to draw early buzz and then officially kicked off last week. The only way to describe this train wreck of a show is that of a mundane, family sitcom that just so happens to take place at the White House.

Bill Pullman stars as bumbling U.S. President Dale Gilchrist as he attempts to juggle ordinary family problems squabbles while simultaneously running the country. Josh Gad (Love and Other Drugs, 21), playing the role of the lazy, out of work son Skip may be the show’s only redeeming quality. Gad (who also serves as co-creator) displays comedic timing seen in his previous bit roles as the “witty yet clumsy best friend.” I can only assume (and hope) this series will not be around for long so Gad can lend his talents in a more suitable forum.

Returning to primetime television is the ever-charming and gifted Jenna Elfman (Dharma and Greg) as first lady Emily Nash-Gilchrist. Once again, Elfman wastes her comedic flair as she plays damage control for the unplanned pregnancy of Pullman’s over-achieving daughter. As the media erupts in lieu of this public relations nightmare, the first family must decide how to handle this disastrous one-night fling without disrupting dear old dad.

The fact that this show had great potential makes it all the more painful to watch. With the right writers and visionaries at the helm, this very well could have been a fantastic satire on American politics, the intrusiveness of mainstream media, round-the clock news coverage and the presidency as a whole. Unfortunately, 1600 Penn falls way short of these possibilities. Perhaps the creators figured the novelty of Pullman returning to the Oval Office (Independence Day) would be enough to carry the show’s humor and irony. No such luck. When Pullman gathers his elder staff members to discuss terrorist matters, the discussion turns into fatherly advice for rebellious children. Furthermore, when addressing the nation from the presidential podium, the President defends his daughter as a loving father before uttering, “Oh and uh, we took out a terrorist cell today. Bad dudes, we left nothing but rubble.” I understand the writers we trying to find humor in portraying our Commander-in-Chief as a clueless dad, but they completely miss the mark of parodying our country’s politics.

Don’t be shocked to see this show left out of NBC’s lineup next fall; if it even lasts that long.