TV Review - 1600 Penn

Josh Gad stars in "1600 Penn"
The sitcom features Bill Pullman as the President of the United States and Jenna Elfman as his wife and step-mom to his two teenage kids. Yet, in a weird way, they're not the stars of this show. The star of this show is Josh Gad who plays the President's eldest son, Skip. Why is Gad the star? Besides being one of the creators of the show, Gad is a Jonah Hill-type who does idiotic things inside the White House or in ways that the White House has to handle, while everyone else around him has to deal with the aftermath or real world issues that are complicated because of his actions.

I know a lot of comedies are built on idiocy and have idiotic characters bouncing around. I dare say every sitcom has the resident idiot. Often, those idiots aren't the protagonists but nice supporting characters. This does feel like an ensemble piece like many NBC sitcoms, including Friends and the more recent Parks and Recreation, but there definitely is an effort here to have Josh Gad be more central than Matt LeBlanc or Chris Pratt were on their respective shows.

NBC tried to give LeBlanc's idiot character on Friends his own show where he was the central figure and that show ended quickly. As much as I love Pratt's idiot character on Parks and Recreation, I'm not sure I could take a full-on series where he was the central figure. I probably could if the jokes were really funny, which Amy Poehler and her team do maintain.

Unfortunately, the political humor here doesn't even come close to what Poehler does. 1600 Penn is without any sting, at least not in the first, three episodes. There was more humor in USA's Political Animals, and most of it came from CiarĂ¡n Hinds' performance, as a caricature of former President Bill Clinton. The caricature exaggerated all of the fun and foibles associated with Clinton. Pullman's portrayal has no fun or foible to it. It's rather bland.

Instead of seeing Skip crash college parties or couch-dive on furniture in the oval office, it would be more compelling to satirize the political process or politicians much like HBO's Veep does. The series clearly tries to do so. A tennis match with a foreign dignitary is an attempt, but the writers manage to make it about Skip bumbling his way into it. Rather than making the episode about the actual absurdity of diplomatic relations, the writers make it about this absurd, idiotic character whose likeability is quite low.

Two Stars out of Five.
Rated TV-14.
Running Time: 30 mins.
Thursdays at 9:30PM on NBC.


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