WASHINGTON – NBC’s new sit-com “1600 Penn” visited its namesake Wednesday when one of the producers, a former speechwriter for President Barack Obama, returned with his co-producers and cast for a screening at the White House.
The show features the everyday lives of a fictional first family, the Gilchrists, in the world’s most famous home office – the White House. Produced by 20th Century Fox, “1600 Penn” aired its first episode Dec. 17, and is set to resume on NBC on Thursday.
Former Obama speechwriter Jon Lovett, the cast members and the producers of the new show aired a preview at the National Press Club before heading to the White House.
Lovett said being invited back to the White House for the screening meant a lot to him.
“I am extremely honored and extremely proud and excited and terrified that no one will laugh,” he said at the Press Club event. The roundtable discussion also featured cast members Jenna Elfman, Bill Pullman, Martha MacIsaac and Andre Holland, and co-producers Jason Winer and Mike Royce.
Lovett said he used his past knowledge of politics to “raise the stakes and complicate family dynamics” in the show.
While working at the White House, the constant close scrutiny of all who worked and lived there was a unique experience, he said, and will make the show’s family dynamic unique as well.
Winer said the writers will use political issues as a “jumping off point” to write about the family, rather than the foreground.
“To say that it’s apolitical isn’t quite right, because of the world that they exist in,” Winer said. “We just use it hopefully in a unique way.”
The idea for the show originated from Winer and actor Josh Gad’s search for a role to fit Gad’s “loveable idiot” character — “that kind of character that is essentially a bull in a china shop.”
That was when they decided to use the White House as their setting because it’s the best possible metaphor for that china shop, Winer said.
“But we were worried about our ability to write that environment with detail, with specificity,” Winer continued. “And enter Jon Lovett.”
Lovett had always dreamed of writing a comedy.
“I worked up the nerve to take a chance and leave the White House, and said, ‘Okay, I’m going to write a comedy about anything but the White House,’” Lovett said.
Soon after, he met with Winer – and ended up back in the White House of “1600 Penn.”
“Ultimately its really just about an ordinary family with regular dysfunctions,” Lovett said, “… But it’s in this fish bowl that is the White House, and you tell stories that everybody can relate to in this strange and extraordinary environment.”