‘1600 Penn’ Preview: 5 Things to Know About NBC’s First Family

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NBC has an answer to ABC’s mega-hit comedy Modern Family and it actually also comes from Jason Winer.

1600 Penn is a dive into the politics of family — of a family that just happens to be in politics. The Gilchrists live in the White House, but that is merely their backdrop or their playground. The stories that will unfold week-to-week will be relationship driven — from how step-mom Emily (Jenna Elfman) has trouble parenting the kids, to “Miss Perfect” oldest daughter Becca’s (Martha MacIsaac) surprise pregnancy, to central character Skip’s (Josh Gad) general screw-ups.

“The most important thing is telling really funny, really relatable stories, and if that means casting aside realism of what the real nuts and bolts of how a bill passes, we’re going to do that every time!” Series executive producer, and former political speech writer, Jon Lovett said when Celebuzz visited the Los Angeles, Calif. set.

“The fun we’ve had in the writers’ room is finding new pairs and finding new ways to shake up the stories that way, but it’s a grand tour of everybody. Everybody has their time to shine.”

So what do you need to know about 1600 Penn’s First Family for their first term on-air? Celebuzz got the scoop straight from the set!

1. The President is on his second marriage, and his new wife is actually a former colleague of sorts. Though the show doesn’t plan to produce any overt flashbacks, it will deliver on the whole “how’d they meet” aspect of the President’s still somewhat new relationship.

“We wanted to make sure we had a first lady who had her own gravitas and her own career and her own achievements…The way that we thought to do that was giving her a political career, which is how she and [Dale] met. She’s the savvy person that helped him get to where he is, and that is really important that we play with more and more as we go on. She’s really accomplished, but she struggles at trying to find her way in this family,” Lovett said.

2. Since the show was developed with Gad and as a vehicle for him, it won’t be a surprise that the pilot episode centers on his character, who is being called a “bull in a china shop, [with] the White House as the biggest china shop there is.”But just because Gad can play a guy with childlike enthusiasm so well doesn’t mean Skip is going to be just that guy who only puts his foot in his mouth and accidentally sets things on fire all of the time.

“As you get into the episodes past the pilot, there is a sense of Skip’s maturation and Skip learning from some of his mistakes, while always being kind of the clumsy foil to his father and some of the other characters,” Gad said.

“This isn’t somebody that’s going to become grating; this isn’t somebody who’s just going to annoy you week after week with his antics. You’ll see this lovable side to him, I think, a lot.”

3. The youngest kids, Marigold (Amara Miller) and Xander (Benjamin Stochkam), have storylines dealing with troubles at school, with crushes, and with a new kind of sibling rivalry. While Stockham said that Xander is “popular but not for the right reasons,” his on-screen sister is struggling a little more.

“Marigold, I wouldn’t say, is the popular girl at school. She hangs in the shadows; she’s very sporty, kind of a tomboy, has a couple of friends, but I wouldn’t say that she’s well-known around the school,” Miller said.

“She’s confident, [though]. I want to say has a little bit of a mouth on her. She’s not afraid to stand up for what she believes in.”

4. Skip is not the only “lovable idiot” the show has to offer. The third episode will enter D.B. (Robbie Amell), Becca’s baby daddy who immediately sparks a connection with Skip but who takes a while to warm to Becca herself.

“They are very different, so it’s kind of the two of them trying their hardest to make that difference work and get to know each other. It was kind of a one-night stand, if you will, so they’re really starting from scratch. They’re the unlikeliest of couples, and so far it seems to be working,” MacIsaac said.

5. Elfman’s real life past inspires her character’s past. “She used to dance in music videos, and she told us that over lunch with the writers, and we were like ‘We’ve got to use that!’” Winer said of Elfman.

“What if the First Lady were a quote-unquote classically trained dancer, which we point out in the episode is a sort of demeaning euphemism?… She says at some point, ‘That makes you think stripper, doesn’t it? That’s what people are saying about me!’ It’s an episode where she refuses to dance in public because people know she has this past.”

1600 Penn premieres in a special night and time on Monday at 9:30 PM after The Voice on NBC.

Are you excited to check out 1600 Penn? Let us know your early thoughts on the new comedy in the comments below!

Danielle Turchiano

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