For the first time, 1600 Penn derived its humor from the show’s political aspects rather than the wackiness that ensues when their whirlwind of insanity named Skip wreaks havoc. Granted, Skip still does cause plenty of trouble in “So You Don’t Want to Dance,” the strongest episode by far, but by making Skip the secondary source of humor, 1600 Penn is able to start to find what works and what doesn’t.
For the first two episodes, 1600 Penn seems to act like the Gilcrest family was more like a celebrity family, rather than The First Family. There was rarely any politics depicted, other the fact that President Gilchrist has a cabinet of advisors or that their house has a pressroom. But “So You Don’t Want to Dance” focuses more on the political aspects, as the president and First Lady Emily are trying to pass a bill that will allow for more teachers. But to get it passed, they must convince Senator Thoroughgood, an old racist in a wheelchair, to agree with their bill.
The politics of the episode are mostly ridiculous, as by the end Emily and Skip dance the tango at a party so that Thoroughgood can’t wheel his way out to vote late at night on a bill. It’s a weird storyline, but compared to the last two episodes, it’s an improvement, and it does point 1600 Penn in a stronger direction.
The real strength here though is the new interest in focusing on relationships. Emily and Dale haven’t really had much time together, but in this episode, we see how the two work as a team. Jenna Elfman’s Emily is one of the more interesting characters in the show, as she’s constantly having to struggle to overcome her past and her position as the newest member of the family, whereas Bill Pullman has somewhat struggled with his role as the president. But when the two are together, Pullman improves greatly, and Elfman in the spotlight makes the episode much better.
Skip is also at his most bearable, as we discover he has a crush on Stacey Kim, a girl who works in the White House’s mailroom. He asks her on a date to a ball, where he will dance with Emily; she agrees, but only if they go as friends. It’s good to have Skip focused, rather than have him run around as the ball of energy he is, screwing with everyone else’s stories. He does still have moments where he makes an ass of himself and his family, but they aren’t as egregious as they have been.
One of the more interesting connections is the one between Becca and Marshall, who we find out were dating and broke up, and then Becca became pregnant. Marshall has been a minor character so far, only popping in at moments to drop a funny line and run off, but this newfound importance in the character does make things more exciting.
Meanwhile, the youngest Gilcrest kids, Marigold and Xander, are nowhere to be seen. But this isn’t such a big deal, as 1600 Penn needs to focus on the adjusting the main characters, then go from there.
“So You Don’t Want to Dance” isn’t 1600 Penn at the best it could be—as least I hope not—but it’s headed that way. The more these characters are fleshed out, the more intriguing the show becomes, even if Skip is still frustrating and one of the show’s main focal points. Like Skip, 1600 Penn is doing the best it can, but it still stumbles quite a lot in it’s approach to do so.