Review Roundup: NBC's 1600 PENN, Premiering 1/10

NBC's new midseason comedy 1600 PENN is premiering Thursday, January 10 (9:30-10 p.m. ET) with a sneak preview airing Monday, December 17 (9:30-10 p.m. ET), following The Voice live final performance episode.

In 1600 PENN, the Gilchrists are an American family that deals with ordinary problems under extraordinary circumstances. Sure, we all make mistakes, but theirs just happen to make the evening news. 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.

President Dale Gilchrist (Bill Pullman, "Independence Day," "While You Were Sleeping") is trying to perform the important duties of his job while also doing right by his family - not an easy task when his place of work just happens to be the Oval Office. First Son Skip (Josh Gad, star of Broadway sensation "The Book of Mormon," "21") is one of the administration's biggest liabilities and his clumsy attempts to earn his father's respect often go awry. Yet, despite his many well-intentioned yet misguided efforts, he is the glue that holds this family together.

Stepmom Emily (Jenna Elfman, "Dharma and Greg," "Accidentally on Purpose") is desperately trying to win over the affections of the kids -- including overachieving daughter Becca (Martha MacIsaac, "Superbad"), who is facing her first lapse of judgment, and twins, Xander (Benjamin Stockham, "Sons of Tucson") and Marigold (Amara Miller, "The Descendants") -- but the brood somehow manages to stay one step ahead of Emily.

Always in the president's corner is Marshall Malloy (Andre Holland, "Friends with Benefits"), the savvy and loyAl White House Press Secretary, whose biggest challenge is cleaning up after the Gilchrists. Whether it's entertaining foreign dignitaries or 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 inside the Gilchrist White House.

Let's see what the critics have to say:

Tim Goodman, The Hollywood Reporter: Gad, as the president's eldest son, is a comic tornado in the first three episodes (and, no doubt, the series) and steals every scene he's in. That's exactly the type of performance needed to nail down a series that, like Modern Family, is seeking a wider audience than, say, the brilliant mile-a-minute snark of 30 Rock... By the second episode, 1600 Penn neatly has found its compass on how to be a show about the first family and how to define the ensemble.

Brian Lowry, Variety: Although surrounded by a pretty strong ensemble, Gad's shtick begins wearing thin, in the way listening to an adult speak baby talk might. And while there's room for epic crises and miscues against this backdrop, the show seems determined to keep violating "Seinfeld's" "No hugging, no learning" rule in the end. Blame it, no doubt, on another prominent TV family of the "Modern" variety. That's not to say "1600 Penn" is without some clever moments, but in an age where politics gets dissected in such minute detail - leaving many viewers understandably jaded by the convergence of campaigns and reality TV - the series doesn't generate nearly enough highlights to merit a filibuster-proof yea vote, much less a ticker-tape parade.

David Wiegand, San Francisco Chronicle: None of the real-life White House kids hold a candle to Skip Gilchrist (series co-creator Josh Gad), a latter-day John Belushi type who's spent seven years trying to graduate from college and has absolutely no skills, except for a knack for setting things on fire... But if the series is to find its audience in the long haul, it needs to spread the comedy around a bit. Pullman, for one, is seriously underutilized, and turning him into a slightly glorified straight man for Skip is a waste of his considerable abilities.

Rick Ellis, "1600 Penn" is one of those shows I suspect will bring out that impulse in a lot of critics. It's a series with a troublesome premise yet it also contains some very good acting and some flashes of real stellar writing. But based on the three episodes I've seen so far it's also a mess. Albeit one with the potential to become a show worth watching.

Daniel Fienberg, 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.

Josh Bell, Las Vegas Weekly: The show imports tired sitcom storylines to the White House setting (the Austrian chancellor is coming for dinner, and the First Lady accidentally broke all the priceless Austrian china!) with little creativity, then tops them off with bland life lessons. An alien invasion would be a definite improvement.

Tom Conroy, Media Life Magazine: ...the jokes tend toward the dumb and obvious, so much so that one begins to suspect the show is a parody. Unfortunately, it seems that the creators intend us to take their weak jokes straight. Although the cast members are talented, they can't compensate for the absence of any discernible satiric targets and, in fact, the absence of any point to the show.

Related Articles View More TV Stories

From This Author TV News Desk