Arts Desk

How a Former Obama Speechwriter Landed a Sitcom Deal

Jon Lovett, second from right, with President Obama, former White House adviser David Axelrod, and chief speechwriter Jon Favreau.

Jon Lovett, who recently left his gig as a White House speechwriter, recently landed a pilot deal with NBC for 1600 Penn, a sitcom about a president and his or her dysfunctional family as they bumble their way through the business of the nation. The following is a spec script adapted from Lovett's pitch meeting with the peacock network.

INT. NBC EXECUTIVE SUITE, BURBANK, CALIF. — DAY

JON LOVETT, a young man in his late 20s of slight build with dark, closely cropped hair, sits down on the couch opposite an NBC executive. The network suit, a phlegmatic boulder of a man, sits behind a massive desk cluttered with Daytime Emmys, wayward scripts, and several framed photos of himself posing with Jay Leno. Behind is a large, floor-to-ceiling window, through which Lovett can see many billboards plastered with Leno's prodigious mandible.

EXECUTIVE

So, Mr. Lovett, I understand you have an idea for a new series.

LOVETT

I do. It's a show centered at the most famous address in America.

EXECUTIVE

Go on.

LOVETT

Are you ready for this? It takes place at the White House.

EXECUTIVE

Didn't we do something like this a few years ago?

LOVETT

No, my show is different. It's about the magic and enchantment of the White House told only by someone with experience working there.

EXECUTIVE

I wasn't running the network back then, but wasn't that kind of the hook of that Martin Sheen thing?

LOVETT

Maybe. But I haven't told you which president I worked for.

EXECUTIVE

Oh? Which one?

LOVETT

Barack Obama.

A pregnant pause.

EXECUTIVE

You know, kid, when I went to that Malibu fundraiser and said I wanted some access in return for my $38,500 check, I was thinking a tee time at Andrews Air Force Base, not some little punk staffer dropping by my office in search of an escape hatch.

LOVETT

But I was a speechwriter! I know how the president speaks, thinks, acts.

EXECUTIVE

Speechwriter? I thought you were tight with the folks at Parks and Recreation. Why didn't you take this pitch to them first?

LOVETT

No, no. That's the other guy.

EXECUTIVE

My mistake. Anyway, I suppose you're going to mine your White House experiences for witty banter and moving stories.

LOVETT

That's kind of the idea.

EXECUTIVE

Hold your horses, kid. Do you know how many pitches based on the Obama administration we get here? Biopics. Reality shows starring the first lady's mother. Tea party singing competitions. Some idiot claiming he was a minor communications staffer for the 2008 campaign even suggested a giant, unfilmable miniseries. And White House shows are expensive. The West Wing cost this network $6 million a week. This is NBC, kid. What, you think we got money like HBO does for that Sarah Palin show starring Elaine?

LOVETT

Oh. Well, having worked for the Obama administration —

EXECUTIVE

Yes, you said that.

LOVETT

— I've become very familiar with budget-cutting. What's cheaper than a big drama?

EXECUTIVE

Reality is cheap. Got any special talents not listed on your résumé?

LOVETT

I can do a decent impression of Arianna Huffington.

EXECUTIVE

I think not. Arianna's a close friend. Don't you read my Huffington Post blogs?

LOVETT

Um, sure. I really liked your take on, er, the enduring legacy of, um, the half-hour sitcom?

EXECUTIVE

Lucky guess.

LOVETT

So how about that? Let's do a sitcom. And we'll find a way to do it cheap.

EXECUTIVE

OK, how do we do that?

LOVETT

We'll make it about the first family, except they won't go anywhere. No trade missions, no state dinners. Just family-friendly antics you can schedule opposite Two and a Half Men. It'll be about a president with a crazy wife, ungrateful kids, and a dog that humps the shit out of the furniture.

EXECUTIVE

Could be promising. Who do you have in mind for the president?

LOVETT

Ted Danson?

EXECUTIVE

Too expensive. Try Ted McGinley.

LOVETT

But McGinley played a minor character on The West Wing. All my friends back in D.C. will notice!

EXECUTIVE

You people need to shut the fuck up about The West Wing. This is 2011 NBC, not 2003 NBC. McGinley's cheap and he's playing your president. Got it? And by the way, the last time this network did a show about the White House, Rob Lowe and that smartypants jackass walked after four years and the thing went to shit.

LOVETT

OK, fine. It could work with McGinley. By the way, did I mention that Josh Gad from The Book of Mormon is one of the producers?

EXECUTIVE

OK, you want this show? Give me the logline.

LOVETT

The West Wing meets Married... With Children meets The Osbournes.

EXECUTIVE

You got a pilot, kid.

LOVETT

Yes! But what happens if you don't pick up the show?

EXECUTIVE

We'll find something for you to do. Having former White House staffers on the payroll looks good on the corporate prospectus. Also, your name kind of sounds like Jon Lovitz. Say, have you ever wanted to meet Jay Leno?

White House photo by Pete DeSouza.

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