Looking Back at the Era of the Innocent Political Comedy: 1600 Penn

Orrin Konheim
2 min readJul 18, 2022

This NBC show was released in a quaint era when our political landscape (at least here in the US) wasn’t so trauma-inducing that we can enjoy something politics adjacent as lightweight sitcom fare.

This was also a coming out vehicle of sorts for Josh Gad who wrote the show and fashioned himself as a Chris Farleyesque figure (they’re both plus sized and Gad was probably aware of this) who’s a lovable oaf.

Gad’s character, Skip Gilchrest, the first son to President Dale Gilchrest (Bill Pullman who is basically the same blandly presidential-looking guy as Independence Day) has zero malicious bones in his body but exists in a social climate that’s politicized to a microscopic degree, so he’s a ticking time bomb for social disaster which is a great recipe for comedy.

Rounding out the ensemble are a couple precocious kids, a goody-two-shoes daughter (Martha MacIsaac) whose clean-cut image is derailed by an unplanned pregnancy, and a beautiful step-wife (Jenna Elfman) who spends many of the episodes overcompensating for the “trophy wife” image.

The first season also heavily revolves around the scandal of the goody-two-shoes first daughter getting pregnant from a rare one-night stand. It’s played with too soft of a touch to be relevant commentary but it powers the season adeptly. Things get particularly juicy when the baby daddy shows up (Robbie Amell) in the fourth episode. A great comedy of errors ensues in which Rebecca discovers that her one-night stand wasn’t a navy man but a dim-witted Old Navy employee who has no idea why he’s being called to the Oval Office as the president berates him. The confluence of comedy and light-hearted political commentary is where this series hits at its high point and it would be curious to know if the series would have played out better if it opened this strong out of the gate.

The writing was pretty decent the first time around but when I watched the show a lot more recently, I found myself appreciating it more. Perhaps the show is so digestible nowadays is because it’s fairly removed from politics. At the same time, it’s a little soft, but it’s good comfort food in a Nick-at-Nite kind of way.

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Orrin Konheim

Freelance journalist w/professional bylines in 3 dozen publications, writing coach, google me. Patreon: http://www.patreon/com/okjournalist Twitter: okonh0wp