Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's '1600 Penn'
'West Wing'/'Modern Family' hybrid has potential, but a mediocre pilot
[In case you've Forgotten, and as I will continue to mention each and every one of these posts that I do: This is *not* a review. Pilots change. Sometimes a lot. Often for the better. Sometimes for the worse. But they change. Actual reviews will be coming in September and perhaps October (and maybe midseason in some cases). This is, however, a brief gut reaction to not-for-air pilots. I know some people will be all "These are reviews." If you've read me, you've read my reviews and you know this isn't what they look like.]
Show:"1600 Penn" (NBC) [Midseason]
The Pitch: "It's 'The West Wing' meets 'Modern Family.'" I suspect that's probably what the actual pitch was.
Quick Response: I sometimes liked the pilot for "1600 Penn," but I also kinda wish NBC didn't have to air it, because the pilot is probably broader and more narratively flabby than the creative Forces That Be want the show to eventually become. Or maybe that's what what *I* hope the Forces That Be want? Maybe I just see upside in Bill Pullman's dry near-deadpan delivery in returning to the White House for the first time since "Independence Day"? And in Josh Gad's flailing, childlike glee, which keeps me believing in Josh Gad, even when I almost never find that the reality of Josh Gad lives up to the potential of Josh Gad (having never seen "Book of Mormon")? And in Jenna Elfman, who I think remains a sitcom star even if "Accidentally on Purpose" and "Courting Alex" have clouded those waters? And in Martha MacIsaac, who totally held her own in "Superbad" back in the day, but never got the career bump she deserved? It's entirely possible that "1600 Penn" just feels like a show that I would like to like and because I didn't hate the pilot, I've latched on to an idealized way that it could gel, even if the pilot doesn't necessarily give any indication that its aspirations are anything more than a "West Wing" version of "Tommy Boy" with Gad standing in for the late Chris Farley? There are punchlines in "1600 Penn" that landed solidly for me and produced the desired chuckles, but even more than your typical pilot, this feels like a rough draft and coming from director Jason Winer, whose "Modern Family" pilot is one of the great recent examples of a series arriving fully realized from the opening episode, that's a disappointment. There are too many moments of easy ethnic humor or easy physical humor or easy broadness that could lay a template for a lazy show that I'd find unbearable. Then again, there are better moments, like Gad's character recording a wonderfully inept fire safety PSA, that blend wordplay with those broader instincts in a totally effective way. So we'll see. I actually like the simplicity of the hypothetical pitch that I referenced above and I think that with the elements in place, there's a best case scenario for "1600 Penn" that I'd really like. It's not there yet. It probably won't go there. The pilot suggests a lack of interest in anything resembling actual politics and while it's not like I want a wonkish attention to detail, Wesley Snipes once taught me that 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is an address that changes all the rules, but "1600 Penn" isn't a comedy that's interested in breaking any new ground.
Desire To Watch Again: Obviously I'm prepared to give this a few more episodes. If it doesn't go down a fruitful path? Oh well. Such is life.
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Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'The New Normal'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'Guys with Kids'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: FOX's 'The Mindy Project'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: CBS' 'Partners'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's 'Nashville'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: CBS' 'Made in Jersey'
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Take Me To The Pilots '12: FOX's 'Mob Doctor'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'Animal Practice'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's 'Last Resort'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: CBS' 'Vegas'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: The CW's 'Beauty & The Beast'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's '666 Park Avenue'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'Chicago Fire'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: FOX's 'Ben and Kate'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: CBS' 'Elementary'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: The CW's 'Arrow'
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Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'Revolution'
All of last year's Take Me To The Pilots entries
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