EXCLUSIVE: I’ve learned that NBC is about to hand out a late pilot order to 1600 Penn, a White House family comedy from Book Of Mormon star Josh Gad, Modern Family director Jason Winer and former speechwriter to President Barack Obama Jon Lovett. The order comes after Gad, originally only attached as co-writer and executive producer, also has agreed to also star in the project, produced by 20th Century Fox TV where Winer is under an overall deal. Additionally, Gad is in negotiations to play the lead opposite James Franco in Brian Koppelman and David Levien’s feature The Game at MGM produced by the Weitz Brothers. The movie is based by the book by Neil Strauss chronicling his efforts to become a pick-up artist. Gad will play Strauss, a Rolling Stone journalist who is a great writer but is not great at picking up women. He goes undercover and his life changes. Franco plays Strauss’ teacher.
1600 Penn, co-created by Gad, Winer and Lovett, is a dysfunctional family comedy where the out-of-control oldest son (Gad) returns home and becomes not only it’s biggest liability but also the glue holding everyone together. The twist is that this family resides in the White House. NBC nabbed the pitch in October with a put pilot commitment. The project was tracking well and many were surprised when it didn’t end up among the 13 half-hour pilots picked up at NBC. But conversations between the network and 20th TV continued, zeroing on the possibility for Gad to star. After several days of intense negotiations, Gad agreed to do it, clearing the way for a pilot green light.
The premise for 1600 Penn originated with Winer and longtime friend Gad bouncing around possible series ideas until they settled on the First Family comedy setup. They turned to 20th TV for assistance in finding a writer. Conveniently, the studio had signed a script deal with former Obama speechwriter Lovett, who had taken meetings indicating that he wanted to get into the half-hour scripted comedy business. 20th TV got the trio together and they honed the idea for 1600 Penn. All three will executive produce. Lovett, repped by CAA and Mosaic, wrote the script with input by Winer, repped by ICM and Mosaic, who is directing. The last 2 pilots he directed, Modern Family and Don’t Trust The B—- In Apt. 23 both went to series at ABC. The pickup of 1600 Penn comes on the heels of NBC’s sibling USA Network ordering a Greg Berlanti drama series about a former First Family.
Josh Gad’s star has been rising fast since his breakout role on Fox’s comedy series Back To You. He became a household name as a star of the smash Broadway musical The Book Of Mormon, which earned him a Tony nomination. (Gad’s co-star, Andrew Rennells, also is toplining an NBC/20th TV comedy pilot this season, Ryan Murphy/Ali Adler’s The New Normal.) On the feature side, Gad, repped by ICM and Brillstein Entertainment, wrapped Thanks for Sharing last fall and just joined the DreamWorks Animation film Me and My Shadow.