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1600 Penn

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TV Series Review

They say it's the world's toughest job. Those who hold it must be calm but decisive, intelligent but emotive. They must know when to hold firm to their ideals but still compromise when the need arises. They must deal with a huge array of complicated situations and explosive personalities with the knowledge that any misstep they make could result in World War III.

I've heard that being President of the United States can be pretty hard, too. But being a father? Now that's what separates the men from the politicians.

President Standrich Dale Gilchrist understands the importance of both the nuclear football and the nuclear family. He knows that handling a peeved Austrian diplomat can be way easier than guiding Skip, his man-child of a son. The fiscal cliff? Yeah, that's pretty serious—but not nearly as worrisome as the fact that his eldest daughter, Becca, is pregnant after a one-night stand.

NBC's 1600 Penn focuses on Gilchrist and his nifty-but-nettlesome brood—beautiful second wife (and former campaign manager) Emily, erratic Skip, smart-but-preggers Becca, and his two younger kids, Marigold and Xander. You might call 1600 Penn a first family sitcom, often more silly than salacious. We're certainly not talking about the level of content you'd see from  2 Broke Girls or How I Met Your Mother. It can actually feel quite old-fashioned, sometimes even tacking on a bit of a moral at the end of the episode.

Other TV critics, though, haven't been that kind to this so-called midseason "replacement" program. A quick Google search turns up reviews with such titles as "Fail to the Chief" (tv.com) and "Can You Impeach the Entire First Family?" (grantland.com). Indeed, 1600 Penn does wind up being less a triumph of political comedy and more a diplomatic accident.

And since politics can make for strange bedfellows, it also has its share of those. Becca's pregnancy and the plot points surrounding her can be problematic. It's gratifying to see how she plans to keep the baby and how the rest of her family rallies around her. And it's refreshing that they call the baby a baby, even very early on in the pregnancy. But said baby is the result of Becca hooking up for a casual fling with a dumb-as-a-pomegranate jock she met in a bar. And that's quite another thing entirely.

Skip can be another loose cannon—perhaps quite literally. In the pilot episode he gets pulled out of college after shooting fireworks into a rival frat house, setting the place on fire. Profanity and various interpersonal deceptions can be bugaboos, too, with White House decorum not always winning the day.

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1600-Penn: 1-24-2013



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Bill Pullman as President Standrich Dale Gilchrist; Jenna Elfman as Emily Nash-Gilchrist; Josh Gad as Standrich 'Skip' Gilchrist Jr.; Martha MacIsaac as Becca Gilchrist; Andre Holland as Marshall Malloy; Amara Miller as Marigold Gilchrist; Benjamin Stockham as Xander Gilchrist; Robbie Amell as D.B.






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Paul Asay

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