Kal Penn’s Love of ’80s Sitcoms Inspired NBC’s ‘Sunnyside’

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Sunnyside

NBC

Premieres: Sept. 26

Airs: Thursdays at 9:30pm ET/PT

Who’s In It? Kal Penn, Kiran Deol, Diana Maria Riva, Samba Schutte, Moses Storm

What’s It All About? Penn, perhaps best known as the Kumar half of the Harold & Kumar film franchise, is star, co-creator and co-executive producer of this new single-camera comedy. Penn plays Garrett Modi, an idealistic young New York City councilman who lost his way and is voted out of office in disgrace. Embarrassed and broke, Garrett is forced to move in with his sister, Mallory (Deol). An attempt to cash in on his infamy, however, turns into his accepting a job — and a chance at redemption — helping a group of immigrants pass their naturalization tests.

While immigration is a hot-button issue, Penn says the premise of the show was born about five years ago and was inspired by one of his favorite ’80s sitcoms. “What about a modern-day Head of the Class about somebody who’s teaching a civics class or a citizenship class, or something like that? And then it just sort of evolved from there,” Penn says. “Obviously, it is very topical now. But I’m glad that it’s not a reaction to anything, because the idea and the way it was developed was very much based in that no matter what our politics look like, I still will always love making people laugh and I will always love my country.”

Classic comedies inspired Sunnyside characters, as well, particularly in how Garrett and Mallory got their names. “Their parents loved Diff’rent Strokes and The Facts of Life, and they were floored that Mrs. Garrett was on both shows,” Penn says. “And they were like, ‘Are you kidding me? This woman, who is hilarious, is on this show and the other show? What a hardworking woman! We need to name our firstborn son after her! Garrett!’ And then Mallory, obviously from Family Ties.”

About Ryan Berenz 2012 Articles
Devotee of Star Wars. Builder of LEGO. Observer of televised sports. Member of the Television Critics Association. Graduate of the University of Wisconsin. Connoisseur of beer. Consumer of cheese. Father of two. Husband of one. Scourge of the Alaskan Bush People. Font of Simpsons knowledge. Son of a Stonecutter.