Sounding as if he is writing his own script for "The Making of 1600 Penn," Winer answers his own question: "Enter Jon Lovett, who three days prior to our meeting at a coffee shop in Los Angeles had just left his job as speechwriter to President Obama. He left to become a comedy writer, which was his passion before he started writing speeches for Obama. He did stand-up comedy and wrote comedy. In fact during his tenure with the president, he wrote many, if not all, those jokes for the White House Correspondents' Dinner."
And so, a 29-year-old former speechwriter who had never written a line of a half-hour TV comedy script in his life became an executive producer and co-creator alongside a Broadway star and one of the hottest directors in television.
"I know it's crazy, but within five minutes of talking to him, I knew we had the guy who could help us make it real," Winer says.
The series will join the politically themed dramas and comedies in production or already hitting airwaves. That group includes three productions made in Maryland: HBO's comedy "VEEP" and docudrama "Game Change," along with Netflix's $100 million "House of Cards" series. Also in the mix is "Political Animals," a six-hour miniseries from USA starring Sigourney Weaver.
"I think what makes this show different is that it's not fundamentally a political show," Winer says. "I wouldn't be surprised if we never say the word 'Democrat' or 'Republican' in the entire series. This is a show about a family first and foremost. Whereas 'The West Wing' got into the nitty-gritty of political reality, this show focuses on the details of this family's life — a family that just happens to be in the fishbowl of the most famous address in America."
Looking at the political trend in TV from within the belly of the beast, Winer makes an important distinction that has generally been overlooked by media writers viewing the phenomenon from the outside.
"All of the shows you mentioned are on cable," he says. "And the truth is that in the network television landscape, politics is still something that I think people are a touch afraid of. And for good reason, because it's divisive. The whole idea of network television is to cast a wide net where families can watch a show together. I mean, that's certainly the spirit behind 'Modern Family' and why it succeeded. And that's certainly the goal here."
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