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White House Comedy Gets Lukewarm Endorsement

Imagine if the late John Belushi were a member of the First Family.

Then you have “1600 Penn,” the new cartoonish NBC comedy that is getting a special preview at 9:30 tonight on Channel 2 following the final performance show of “The Voice.”

I’m sure I’m not the only TV critic who would characterize the silly and occasionally funny midseason comedy as “The White House Meets Animal House.”

Heavyset Josh Gad of “The Book of Mormon” has the Belushi-role as Skip, the likable adult son of the president who says and does inappropriate things but has his heart in the right place. Skip accidentally sets fires and inflames sensitive topics with his verbal knack for saying just the wrong thing at the wrong time.

Claire Danes

Created by Jason Winer of “Modern Family,” Gad and former White House speech writer Jon Lovett., “1600” has the attitude of a “Saturday Night Live” sketch and often is about as funny as the ones that air an hour into the show.

The pilot that airs tonight seems to revolve around the real-life travails of many of the famous siblings and children of presidents and presidential candidates.

NBC’s promos reveal the issue behind the first three episodes made available for review – the presidential daughter is unmarried and pregnant. You don’t have to think too hard or see Russia from your house to imagine where that plot line came from. The jokes in the promo come from later episodes, which is an indication of how funny the pilot is tonight.

Bill Pullman plays President Dale Gilchrist, who has to deal with Latin American politics and Middle East terrorists as well as issues with his children. Jenna Elfman, who looks fantastic,  plays his second wife who is trying to bond with four stepchildren.

The First Daughter is played by Canadian actress Martha MacIsaac of the movie “Superbad.” Her character is the polar opposite of Skip. Until now, she’s been perfect. The Prez also has a teenage daughter discovering her sexuality and a middle school son.

I suppose we need some laughter these days after all the things the current President and the nation are dealing with. Because of that, “1600 Penn” gets a lukewarm endorsement.

Rating: 2 and a half stars out of 4

Now on to Showtime’s “Homeland,” which ended its second season Sunday night. I’m not going to give out much information about the finale on the theory many people haven’t watched it yet.

I can say a few things. First, I was dead wrong in my predictions about what was going to happen. Second, I liked my predictions better than what happened to Carrie (Claire Danes) and Brody (Damian Lewis). Thirdly, the episode confirmed my view that the series should have ended after this season.

However, this isn’t to say that I didn’t find the second half of the hour-long episode compelling viewing after the Big Event occurred that ended the first-half tedium over whether the two leads were in love.

The Big Event saved the talky finale. But many elements of the episode were preposterous and almost as laughable as some elements of “1600 Penn.” After giving people time to watch the episode, I will explain further. In addition, I have very little interest in The Big Idea behind what is happening to Carrie and Brody. In other words, it won’t be easy to make me care as much about the third season as the first two seasons.

Readers looking for a critique of the coverage of the tragedy in Newtown, Conn. should look up my Saturday blog. I didn’t think it could wait until today. Since I wrote it, a few more inaccuracies in the early coverage have emerged. CBS’ Scott Pelley made several corrections in Sunday’s episode of “60 Minutes.” Not every error was the fault of journalists, but collectively the media’s performance was embarrassing. But as I suggested Saturday, the errors don’t seem that important in the scheme of things.     

Finally, remember Channel 4 meteorologist Lindsay Schwarzwaelder? According to published reports, she has changed her name to Lindsay Riley and been named the weekend morning meteorologist at the NBC affiliate in Dallas, Texas. She left Channel 4 two years ago to work in Lexington, Ky. According to a release from the Dallas station, Riley also will do features on environmental and weather-related stories.


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