Episode 3: So You Don't Want to Dance
By: Carlos Uribe
1600 Penn is a show about a normal family that happens to reside in the White House.
In the main plot of the episode, the First Lady is trying to get respect for herself in front of the nation. She wants to be taken seriously rather than as a trophy wife. This was an image situation she encountered in the pilot so it makes sense that this episode would tackle that issue. This is largely explored through an education bill that she basically wrote. She's trying to get it through but is finding resistance not just among the media but also a Senator they need in order to win the vote. It's not because they think the bill is bad but because she's a woman. The media is more interested in asking her for fashion opinions and about the days she used to dance while the Senator doesn't respect her enough to take her seriously in negotiations. She tries her best to win over the Senator by giving him a toast but this fails to bring him over to her side. When he suggests she dance, she decides to do this in order to keep the Senator from going to the Senate and voting against the bill. This allows the education reform to pass while proving her worth within the White House. She does end up achieving the respect of the media when they question her on whether to increase the Pell Grant or not. It's a fine plot that allows the show to actually build the drama around policy even if the series still refuses to take an actual political stand. The reform is basically hiring more math and science teachers while the old Senator is a racist who doesn't believe in equality. This does trivialize the matter to much to really cheer for the bill's passage which in turn impacts our ability to root for the First Lady to be taken seriously. Still the plot was funny and it helps to reinforce the character.
The sub-plot predictably belongs to Skip. He has a crush on this girl from the postal service and he decides to ask her out to the Senator's ball. It certainly has it's moments such as when he acts as if her boss is actually her father but it falls short because it's just so predictable. Of course Skip is going to take it too far and ask her to be his girlfriend way before she's ready. Of course he's going to do this in a completely public and embarrassing way. Of course he does this without actually trying to connect with her first to see where she actually is. A large problem with 1600 Penn is that it seems to think this is a multi-camera comedy and this is exactly the kind of plot you would find on an old classic sit-com. It would have also been nice if the show had used the sub-plot to develop one of the other characters other than Skip. We've spent enough time with him to know who he is and it's not like this sub-plot added anything to his character we didn't already know. Plus he already contributes to the episode with the dance sequence so we still get the weekly dosage of Skip.
So You Don't Want to Dance is an episode of 1600 Penn with it's moments. It's an episode that has a lot of weaknesses but I think it's the first good episode of the show at the same time, despite it's weaknesses, because of the main plot.
Marshall and Becca used to date, which I'm sure is the first time the series established this. This is actually a good move: Marshall might have a professional relationship with the White House family but giving him such a personal one to a family member is a nice way to bring home closer to them.