NBC has ordered a pilot for a sitcom about a dysfunctional first family in the White House. The show, “1600 Penn,” will be exec-produced by, among others, former Obama speechwriter Jon Lovett.
Lovett left Washington in September for Dottyville on the Pacific to write for television because, he told The Post’s Jason Horowitz, “I would like to be able to write in my own voice.”
It’s important to note that ordering a pilot does not mean we will ever see an actual series called “1600 Penn” from 20th Century Fox on the NBC lineup.
But the new-ish head of NBC programming, Jennifer Salke, was until the summer an exec VP at that same 20th Century Fox TV. There, she developed new series (including comedies “Glee” and “Modern Family”), so it’s a near cert she’ll champion in a big way “1600 Penn” getting on NBC’s schedule.
NBC had great ratings success years ago with a certain White House drama called “The West Wing,” which starred Martin Sheen as POTUS. Over its run, “West Wing” writers included congressional staffer (now cable-show host) Lawrence O’Donnell, and former Clinton White House (and Al Gore) speechwriter Eli Attie.
ABC had less success with its White House drama “Commander in Chief,” in which Geena Davis landed the POTUS role, noted trade publication Variety, which broke the “1600 Penn” news.
But it’s unclear whether America embraces the idea of laughing at the first family. Years ago, Comedy Central’s “That’s My Bush,” about the Bush clan, expired in its infancy. Likewise the defunct UPN network’s “The Secret Diary of Desmond Pfeiffer” — which imagined a black butler as the real brains behind the dysfunctional Lincoln White House.
NBC’s choice is not the only Washington political comedy in the works. HBO has announced it will launch “Veep” in ’12, with Julia Louis-Dreyfus playing a senator who becomes VPOTUS and learns that the job is nothing as she expected — and hilarity ensues. That one was created by Armando Iannucci, the Scottish satirist who penned the Oscar-nominated “In the Loop.” He’s also exec-producing, as is New York mag’s Frank Rich.
During his Washington life, Lovett wrote many of Obama’s speeches about financial reform, seeded laugh lines into Rahm Emanuel’s commencement speeches and wrote jokes for Obama’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner remarks, Horowitz noted in his profile of the now-Hollywood-based TV scribe.
An average of 13 million people Sunday caught the unveiling of ABC’s new fairy-tale fantasy, “Once Upon a Time,” even though the show aired in the teeth of World Series Game 4 on Fox — as well as that wacky prime-time football game in which the New Orleans Saints defeated the winless Indianapolis Colts, 62-7, in the most lopsided game in the six-year history of NBC’s “Sunday Night Football.”
“Once” now has the fifth-biggest audience of any new-series roll-out this TV season.
Which, of course, means it did better than shows that TV-industry navel-lint pickers predicted would be the Next Big Thing:
Simon Cowell’s Fox singing competition, “The X Factor,” opened with 12.5 million on a Wednesday in September and clocked 12.5 million the next night, too. Meanwhile, “Terra Nova” — Fox’s $20 million, two-hour time-traveling dino-drama — attracted an average of 9.2 million viewers the day it launched.
In case you missed it, “Once” is about a 28-year-old bail-bonds collector chick who was abandoned as a baby and who gave up her baby boy for adoption. Only her now 10-year-old son, Henry, tracks her down because he thinks Mom is Snow White and Prince Charming’s missing daughter, who was sent away to protect her from the Evil Queen’s curse. That somehow trapped the fairy-tale world forever, frozen in time and now accessible only from some picturesque New England town called Storybrooke.
Would it surprise you to learn women drove the “Once” ratings? Didn’t think so. How about women between the ages of 25 and 54 years? We’re sure there’s an “Oprah’s Lifeclass” episode somewhere in there.
Among viewers of all ages and backgrounds, “Once’s” No. 5 ranking is behind:
●CBS’s “2 Broke Girls” (which enjoyed a 30-million-viewer “Two and a Half Men” lead-in audience).
● CBS’s Poppy-Montgomery-can’t-forget-a-detail cop drama ‘Unforgettable” (which has the “NCIS” ratings behemoth as its lead-in).
● CBS’s new J.J. Abrams drama series, “Person of Interest.”
● ABC’s retro Tim Allen sitcom, “Last Man Standing.”
Among 18- to 49-year-old viewers — a.k.a. advertiser catnip — “Once Upon a Time” also is ranked No. 5 for the season to date, behind:
●“2 Broke Girls.”
● Fox’s new Zooey Deschanel comedy, “New Girl.”
●“The X Factor” Wednesday.
●“The X Factor” Thursday.
Notice how that makes “Once Upon a Time” the season’s No. 1-ranked drama-series debut in the key demographic group? ABC noticed, too.
Katie Couric’s syndicated “Katie” has been sold to 14 of the country’s top 15 TV markets, including Washington’s Allbritton-owned ABC affiliate station, WJLA, announced her producers at Disney on Monday.
Disney hopes “Katie” will become the new “Oprah” when it debuts in the fall of 2012. Oprah Winfrey’s long-running talk show aired on many ABC stations across the country and was a ratings force to be reckoned with. “Katie” is shaping up to be no slouch, reuniting Couric with her former “Today” show producer, Jeff Zucker.
But WJLA has already given Anderson Cooper’s new syndicated talk show its “Oprah” time slot: 4 p.m. weekdays. Uh-oh.
So, how’s Anderson doing in that time slot on WJLA? With October ratings coming into the final stretch, the station’s ratings are down 68 percent compared with the same time last year in what we like to call The Oprah Age Bracket: women between 25 and 54 years old. Last year, WJLA was far and away the leader at 4 o’clock with this key group of viewers.
Now leading the time slot in this demographic: NBC-owned WRC, which, with news programming, is enjoying a 60 percent ratings increase at 4 p.m. among women 25-54. WRC now leads the Washington ratings race at 4 among all viewers as well, and the increase has solidified the station’s No. 1 status at 5 and 6 p.m.
Behind WRC in The Oprah Age Bracket at 4: WTTG with “Dr. Oz,” which is up by a more modest 4 percent year-to-year.
Last summer, when everyone was trying to figure out who would be the next Oprah, Disney announced that it had signed Couric to develop the talker and that the show would air on all the ABC stations that are owned by the network. That included the country’s three largest markets: New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.
At the time, Disney said Couric would also do work for the news division of its ABC broadcast network.