Thursdays, 9:30 p.m., NBC
Comedies that centered on the family used to be a fixture of television. From June and Ward Cleaver to Maggie and Jason Seaver, the family unit was fertile ground for laughs. Then, by the mid-’90s, familycentered sitcoms seemed to fall out of fashion. Thanks, in part, to new shows like 1600 Penn, they’re staging a comeback, but in this case, to mixed results.
In a style reminiscent of The Office, 1600 Penn, with its single-camera approach, is a look into the Gilchrists, the first family of the United States. Led by veteran comedic actors Bill Pullman and Jenna Elfman, as the president and first lady, respectively, the two juggle the day-to-day difficulties of domestic and international affairs with the ups and downs of life with four intelligent, highenergy children.
Some troublesome story lines—such as the president’s pregnant and unmarried eldest daughter—mar this otherwise appealing and, at times, gentle look at what happens when one’s professional and personal lives are center stage for the world to judge.
Still, 1600 Penn has heart. It shows viewers that when life hurts, love heals. And family—imperfect as they might be—is a refuge from a cynical world.