As is evident in the title of 1600 Penn’s second episode, “The Skiplantic Ocean,” the president’s obnoxious, slacker son is ever-present in the proceedings once again. It’s never a good thing when the most frustrating part of your show is the main character. Skip isn’t as overwhelming as he was in last week’s episode, but you know it’s bad when Skip spends half of the episode in a pool and you can’t help but think that the show might be better off if he accidentally drowned.
It’s not that Josh Gad, who plays Skip, isn’t talented; it’s just that the role he is portraying is so over-the-top, so frustrating and so irritatingly distracting. The best excuse for Skip is that he is being used as a distracting from the bland writing that screams, “we’re a kooky First Family!”
While Skip is the biggest problem in 1600 Penn, the rest of the cast isn’t much better. Most glaringly awkward is Bill Pullman as President Dale Gilchrest. He doesn’t pull off the lines he’s given that are supposed to be funny, and makes the president look more incompetent than the most powerful man in the world with a humorous side.
Some of the show’s largest flaws are apparent immediately with this episode. Becca, the president’s daughter, has been discovered to be pregnant by the press. Becca and stepmom/First Lady Emily, played by Jenna Elfman, come clean to the president before the press can get to him.
During the president’s meeting with his staff to discuss action to be taken on a terrorist cell, he gets distracted by his family hiding this life-changing news from him. The meeting become a parent’s gab session, as he discusses hugs and daddy blogs. At the end of the meeting, with limited information, the president OKs the bombing of the terrorist cell. It’s a poorly written scene, one that points out the flaws that come with having a crazy White House comedy.
After coming clean to the president, Emily tries to keep the younger kids from finding out what is going on, instead telling them they’re going on a family vacation. The episode’s only humor comes from Elfman’s panic over keeping the truth from the kids, but that’s not saying much humor comes from it.
Meanwhile, Becca is hiding out with Skip in the pool. When the two re-enter the White House and walk into the wrong room—in their own home—and enter the press room, Skip takes over and explains to the press that his sister made a mistake and got knocked up by a person whose name she doesn’t even know, making everything even worse. There has to be a point where the presidential family decides it’s best for Skip to go back to college, since he’s only making things worse in D.C.
We don’t know Becca as a character enough to make the pregnancy a shock. By presenting her pregnancy in the first episode, she is now “the pregnant character” rather than having any other discernable qualities. We realize she’s usually straight-laced, made one mistake and now, BOOM, she’s pregnant, but the impact isn’t as big as say, the pregnancy scare on Veep. There’s no real shock with the pregnancy this early on and just seems like a way to give each character some prominent characteristic that will give a clear story arc.
1600 Penn would be smart to start making changes ASAP. Scale back Skip. Develop the characters further. And please, oh please, make the show actually funny. Because right now, the show is floundering in “The Skiplantic Ocean,” and it feels like maybe it should just be put out of its misery.