December 18th, 2012
11:38 AM ET
It's one thing when your daughter can't come up with the courage to tell you that she's pregnant. It's another when you're the leader of the free world.
Such is the typical sort of plotline on "1600 Penn," NBC's new White House-based comedy, which premiered Monday night (before settling into a cushy post-"Office" Thursday slot in the new year).
Bill Pullman is back in a familiar role as the president of the United States. President Gilchrist's family includes his second wife and First Lady, Emily Nash Gilchrist (Jenna Elfman, pretty much great in anything), and three of his kids: Becca, Marigold and Xander.
But it's his college-age son, Skip, who unsurprisingly takes up much of the focus of the first episode. Skip is played by "Book of Mormon's" Josh Gad, who co-created the series with former White House speechwriter Jon Lovett.
Skip has been expelled from school and is back living in the White House. At one point, the president's press secretary has to explain that Skip has apologized for the fire. Both fires.
On paper, it's an interesting idea that this family's every foible has to be explained away to the press, or that international incidents could take place because of Skip's meddling. (And they do in this episode, as Skip accidentally ruins the president's plan to lose a tennis match to gain the upper hand in trade negotiations... and then he gets some Latin American leaders to see things the president's way while sharing drinks.)
One can very easily see how Skip could become the only character on this show with any significant airtime. And in reality, we're not dealing with anything new here. "Black Sheep," "That's My Bush!" and the current syndicated "The First Family" have covered this ground.
I'd be interested to see how Becca's pregnancy and the late revelation that Marigold is a lesbian might end up paying off, but I wonder if all of that will be lost in Skip's shenanigans.
Don't get me wrong, Gad is a major comic talent (and Pullman's understated straight man approach in his scenes with him are also pretty good), but a little could go a long way.
I'll check out the next few episodes, but I already see trouble signs ahead for this series.
What did you think of the premiere? Share your thoughts on video or comment below.
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