Sunday, March 17, 2013

1600 Penn

1600 Penn
Episode 8: Live from the Lincoln Bedroom
Episode 9: Game Theory
By: Carlos Uribe

1600 Penn is a show about a normal family that happens to reside in the White House.

Spoilers Ahoy!

Live from the Lincoln Bedroom:

This episode of 1600 Penn is primarily about the relationship between Skip and President Dale. If this show had a central relationship then it might be between the President and his oldest son. I'm not sure if it is because it's not really the heart of the show but it comes closest to playing that role. The two have always had a strained relationship as the President isn't really that proud of his son and the two don't really seem to connect. That's basically what this episode's primary conflict boils down to. It all begins when Marshall learns that Skip has a podcast. He tries his best to shut it down by appearing on the show. He accidentally reveals that a prized letter Skip received from his father actually came from Marshall. This is a big deal because it was a letter that had not only allowed Skip to go through summer camp but the only his father has told him that he was proud of him. Skip is devastated when the emotional meaning of the letter is taken away which requires Dale to go in and fix it. The President does manage to mend fences when he claims that he's proud of Skip because he always picks himself up right after every failure. It would have been a much stronger plot if the President's character was more defined or if the relationship was anything but superficial. Alas, that's a constant problem on this show.

The other plot in this episode had to do with Becca and Emily. It's at this point where I have to bring up that it would be nice if the series actually established the family history. What happened to Dale's original wife? Did she die? Did she leave them? Was she abducted by aliens? When did she leave their lives? How long did Becca act as the mother figure to her siblings? These questions are important because the show keeps bringing up how the past is affecting the family in the present day. It makes sense for the writers to create conflict between the oldest sister who was forced to act a mother and the new figure trying to take over the role but it rings false because we know so little about the family before the show began. It doesn't need to show us the status quo before Emily married Dale but it at least needs to make their family situation more clear. That we don't know the family history so well makes it look like they haven't figured it out yet. The problem is that the conflict isn't going to resonate until they do have the answers.

So what was their conflict about? It was about Marigold. She's taking a photography class that stops her from pursuing AP Algebra. Emily is okay with this because she feels it's important that Marigold explore her interests. Becca doesn't respect photography and believes that Marigold should be forced to take the math class. It's two different opinions on how to raise Marigold that brings them in direct conflict. They try their best to get their way but they only end up ruining a speech meant to promote math to young girls. Their conflict is resolved for them when Marigold realizes she can take both classes but they're not happy with this. They want to know who was right but they're both wrong. Marshall is only too happy to point that out. Overall, it's a decent conflict but it fails to work because the family history is unclear.

Game Theory:

Game Theory feels like it's supposed to take place before the episode where they went to the ranch. This is because Skip goes on his only date with the girl he likes. In the ranch episode, they had broken up and he was trying to get over her. I'm not sure if this was aired out of order or not but I'm not sure why. It was definably the strongest episode so far-although that's not saying much as it's still very weak. The actual first date involves a lot of the shenanigans you would expect. Skip wants to be his usual self but of course there's a character whose going to try and change him into something less intimidating. That role is played by Emily. She tags along and she even tries to talk him through the date using an earpiece but it's basically what you would expect. They get found out and then Skip tries to impress the girl he likes by being himself. He's rejected once again. This was definably the weakest plot but it does seem like yet another episode where the writers are acknowledging that too much of Skip is a bad thing. Now if only they can start putting that into practice rather than just saying it and the show would be more enjoyable.

I guess the meat of the episode is supposed to be the Risk plot. That's where the name of the episode comes from. President Dale and Xander play a game of Risk where the two completely take it seriously. Xander is confident he's going to be able to beat his dad while Dale panics that his son is growing up. There's the usual moment of crisis where a father has to face the day that his son beats him at their game but it's only compounded because the dad is the President. He takes the game so seriously that he actually uses the military to try and come up with a sound strategy to beat his son. He fails as Xander is able to use his knowledge of game theory to beat his dad. It's the first plot where Xander and Dale are actually paired together and the show does get a few decent chuckles from those two. At the same time, they remain woefully undeveloped and it continues to take the predictable punchlines. There is very little creativity in the writer's room.

The reason I think this is the strongest episode is because of Becca and DB. I'm not really a fan of Becca because I'm starting to also find her annoying. It's really difficult to do the perfectionist in comedy without them bringing the show down and the show is getting close to the edge. On the other hand, this plot actually made me laugh because of DB. It's not that the show has some really good jokes in this sub-plot but Robbie Amell manages to really sell them. It wouldn't seem that way when we first met him but DB might very well end up being 1600 Penn's secret weapon if it ever figures itself out. Their whole plot revolved around how the two have very different interests and how they're going to compromise in order to raise their kids. Which is a fine plot to have. There might have been some laughs to be had with this plot but it could have actually been a lot funnier if the writing had been stronger.

Overall, Live from the Lincoln Bedroom is an instantly forgettable episode while Game Theory shows just how weak this show is...when it's the best on it's had but it's still a very unfunny hour.

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