Hey, if nothing else, this show has delivered on some excellent similes.
The basics: President Dale Gilchrest (Bill Pullman) can lead a country but has trouble leading his family (possibly because he mostly ignores them). This means his new wife Emily (Jenna Elfman) can’t get the kids to talk to her. Eldest son, Skip (Josh Gad, Secret Service codename, “Meatball”), is a goofy failure who frequently sets things on fire. Daughter Becca (Martha MacIsaac) is the perfect overachiever. So of course she’s pregnant. There are two other kids, Marigold (Amara Miller) and Xander (Benjamin Stockham). Marigold is an adolescent lesbian, and Xander seems to be a Che Guevara-style revolutionary.
There is also a Chief of Staff rather amusingly named Marshall Mathers (Andre Holland).
Wacky hijinks ensue.
Do these hijinks work as a comedy? On first viewing, the best answer might be “almost.” There is some good acting, and most of the actors are surprisingly perfect in their roles. I can believe Elfman as a First Lady. And we’ve all seen Pullman save the world as the President in “Independence Day.” Add into this some interesting (if still two-dimensional) family antics, and there could be a spark of brilliance in “1600 Penn.”
Maybe. If the show wants to really work, it might want to think about bringing Gad — who really is quite funny — into the same universe as everyone else on “1600 Penn.” As it is, Skip’s goofball antics are almost distracting. There is also a slightly cold and distant feel to the story. For a family comedy (even a Presidential one) to succeed, we need to see a little more heart, not just flashy comic timing.
Much like Skip himself, “1600 Penn” has a spark of brilliance. The difficulty will be in keeping the whole thing from going down in flames.
So what did you think? Is “1600 Penn” a winner or an also-ran among new winter shows? Will you be watching? Share what you think here!