Diane Haithman is contributing to Deadline’s TCA coverage.
NBC’s new White House comedy 1600 Penn doesn’t plan to bring in real politicians as guest stars, producers said today during the show’s lunchtime panel at TCA. Executive producers Jason Winer and Jon Lovett (a former Obama speechwriter) said they will definitely have real-life reporters and media figures as guests. Lovett and other panelists said upcoming guests may include NBC correspondent Savannah Guthrie, Chuck Todd of NBC News and Larry King.
The creative team also said it would take a cue from the White House drama The West Wing by not bringing very recent history into the show, which stars co-creator/co-executive producer Josh Gad as the black sheep son of the White House family (Gad was also a star of Broadway’s Book of Mormon).
The show, which also stars Bill Pullman and Jenna Elfman as the President and First Lady, also has Modern Family veteran Jason Winer as executive producer along with Mike Royce. Winer acknowledged that audience will probably recognize some “Modern Family DNA inherent in the family dynamics. You will start to see this family become a warm cohesive unit.” Lovett seconded the opinion that the show is more about family than politics.
Gad said he met Winer “on the Modern Family circuit” and Winer approached him about doing a White House comedy after seeing the actor in Book of Mormon. After first joking that he took the role for the money, Gad said that at first he didn’t want to do the role of First Son Skip Gilchrist because it was too much like his Mormon role, Cunningham. “Honestly it came down the fact that if I saw anybody else play the character of Skip, I was going to be really pissed off.” Never able to resist a joke, he added: “And also a lot of the other offers didn’t come through.”
Royce addressed the fact that early reviews of the show have been mixed. “I’ve read all of the reviews…” he began to the room full of TV journalists and critics, only to be interrupted by Gad, who offered helpfully: “Some of you are dicks.”
Ignoring Gad, Royce continued, with understatement: “There is a great contingent of people I think who are not quite sold on the show. [The White House] is a big world, a world that everybody knows. We have a bit more of a hurdle to make this world our own.” In the promos for the show, he said, “Sometimes it seems the most promotable thing is the chair flying out the window. We’re trying to get to more of the family dynamics where the White House is more of a backdrop.”
Winer agreed, saying that Gad’s zany character and Bill Pullman’s uptight President character represent “an emotional odd couple at the heart of the show.”