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Baltimore native Jason Winer gets new Hollywood deal, NBC debut date

Baltimore native Jason Winer signed a new deal with 20th Century as NBC announced a premiere date for his sitcom, "1600 Penn," according to the trade publication Variety.

The deal will keep the Friends School graduate writing-producing and directing at 20th Century Fox where he's been since 2007. During that time, he won a Directors Guild Award for his work on the pilot of "Modern Family," while an executive producer on that series.

Winer's new series, "1600 Penn," will premiere Jan. 10 on what is now the top-ranked prime time network. The comedy about a president and his family stars Jenna Elfman, Bill Pullman and Josh Gad. Winer is co-creator and executive producer of the series. Pullman and Elfman play the president and first lady.

"His skills are kind of remarkable," Dana Walden, the head of 20th Century Fox Television, told Variety. "He is the whole package."

Here's some of what I wrote in May about Winer and "1600 Penn" when its pick-up by NBC was announced:

In the shorthand of Hollywood trade publications, "1600 Penn," is being described as "Modern Family" meets "The 'West Wing." And while that characterization is in some ways misleading, Winer is basically OK with it, because there are some "Modern Family" roots -- not the least of which is Winer himself, who won a Directors Guild Award for his work on the pilot of the hit sitcom about a diverse multigenerational family.

 Outside of the co-creators of "Modern Family," Steve Levitan and Christopher Lloyd, Winer played as large a role as anyone in shaping the look and on-air feel of the pilot that debuted to instant acclaim. And he directed another six episodes of the Emmy Award-winning ABC series this season.

 But the story of how "1600 Penn" came together is also illustrative in its own right of the way the creative process in Hollywood sometimes works out for what seems like the better. That's despite all the commercial considerations involved in the business of making TV shows that entertain millions each night and still earn billions in advertising dollars for the networks. ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox and the CW are expected to book $9 billion in ad sales off last week's upfronts.

 "The series started with a mutual desire between Josh [Gad] and myself to work together," Winer says. "Josh, who you know has been starring on Broadway in 'The Book of Mormon' for the last several years, and I met when he auditioned for the role of Cameron in 'Modern Family.' He got very close to getting that role, but he pulled out at the last minute because he was in some silly play about Mormons."

... "But Josh and I kept in touch over the years, and when this opportunity opened up for me to develop a series at 20th Century Fox, he and I got to talking," Winer says.

 One of the things they talked about was a show Gad saw about the family of former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

 "Josh had a sort of lightning-bolt moment after watching that show about the Palins," Winer says. "He started thinking how that dysfunctional family might have been just a heartbeat away from the Oval Office. And what a ripe comedic notion: that there could be a family with problems, frankly like any other family, occupying the most hallowed address in America. And them trying to keep those problems under wraps seemed like rich comedic territory."

Maybe this goes without saying, but Winer was kidding about "some silly play."

 

 

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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