1600 Penn is about the First Family, but it's definitely not about politics.
"It takes a little bit of time, but we do quickly [get] to a show that concentrates more on the family dynamics where the White house is just a back drop," executive producer Mike Royce told reporters at the Television Critics Association winter previews. "That's a product of how we have to launch the stories that occur, but as we go along we're able to turn things more inward which I think is a more interesting place to be."
The NBC series stars Bill Pullman as President Gilchrist, Jenna Elfman as his second wife Emily, and their children, Martha MacIsaac, Amara Miller, Benjamin Stockham and Josh Gad, the black sheep of the family. Although Gad helped develop the show and his over-the-top character Skip along with producer Jason Winer, he admitted that he was not planning to actually play him.
"Coming off of Book of Morman, I had a lot of opportunities, but I didn't want to do TV," Gad said. "Jason and I came up with the idea ... and when I was originally working on it I had no intention of playing Skip. He's big and gregarious and a lot like [my Book of Morman character] Cunningman, and I didn't want to do that. But it came down to the fact that if I saw anyone else play the character Skip I'd be really pissed off so I had to allow myself to do it — and all my other offers fell through," he joked.
Also at the helm creatively is Jon Lovett, a former White House staffer who has taken his experiences in the political world and exaggerated them with slapstick comedy to come up with many of the show's story lines. "I have a lot stories about absurdities in Washington," he said without elaborating. The series exists in an "alternate political universe," Winer added. "We adopted a similar rule to The West Wing, where in order to create reality in that show, they decided history existed up to a certain point. After that, they didn't mention it because then it created a strong paradox."
As viewers will see from early on in the first episode, the show features over-the-top situations and jabs at the current political climate, and the producers aren't afraid to offend anyone who might be watching. "We are not sitting around worrying about political correctness," Lovett said. "The show benefits from not being worried about what critics on either side will say. We're proud of the sharpness of some of the jokes [and] the most important thing is that we're striving to write the funniest thing possible. If people take offense to things we don't, that's a disagreement we'll have."
1600 Penn airs on Thursdays at 9:30/8:30c on NBC. Watch a preview below: