With each new episode that 1600 Penn trudges through, it seems like it learns the importance of ensemble over forcing one character into the comedic spotlight. It still has an incredibly hard time balancing all six members of the Gilcrest family in one episode, but 1600 Penn has smartly started pairing off cast members together and seeing what works and how different dynamics will play out.
This was a great change in last week’s “To the Ranch,” an episode in which many of the different characters were forced into close proximity with each other, forcing them to deal with various issues. We once again get that in “Live From the Lincoln Bedroom,” an episode which picks back up on the frayed relationship of Skip and Dale, while also dealing with Emily’s insecurities of being a new mother and battling the maternal instincts of Becca.
The strongest change that 1600 Penn has made in its first eight episodes is that it doesn’t just let Skip roam free in The White House, causing havoc. Instead, he’s much more reined in, often pitted against another person who perfectly counterbalances his insanity. In “Live From the Lincoln Bedroom,” Skip has created his own podcast, which is clearly a horrible idea, which Marshall tries to stop.
If 1600 Penn has any standout star, it deserves to be Andre Holland as Marshall. His relationship with Becca has become the most consistent storyline, and his humor is much more balanced than any one else.
While on Skip’s podcast, Marshall lets it slip that he might have written Skip a letter addressed from his father while he was at camp that meant the world to him. This leads Skip to freak out, only able to be calmed by his father, who he demands come on his podcast and bring him chips. Dale has never told Skip that he was proud of him, so now Skip wants that reassurance.
The podcast element seems like it would be equally as over-the-top as Skip, but works quite well, and having Skip interview Marshall and Dale is much calmer and less excessive than Skip usually is.
Meanwhile, Emily and Becca are fighting over what classes Marigold should take. Becca was the de facto maternal figure before Emily showed up, so now their personalities are butting heads in a big way.
1600 Penn is still having a hard time maneuvering Marigold and Xander into the storylines. Marigold has some fine moments, but Xander is left to man the stations at Skip’s podcast soundboard. The show is getting better at it, but still hasn’t quite nailed down how to utilize the two youngest Gilcrest children.
At the very least though, 1600 Penn is making Skip less of a loner in his own family by putting him along with other people for his stories. By having someone else for Skip to bounce off of, he calms down and at times can actually be funny. It’s taking a little while for 1600 Penn to figure out just how to use everyone, but it’s on the right track.