July 15, 2015

SHOWBUZZDAILY Series Premiere Review: “Impastor”


IMPASTOR:  Wednesday 10:30PM on TV Land – Change the Channel

TV Land’s brand was built primarily as a repackager of vintage sitcoms, and when it entered the world of original content, it initially did so with shows that tried to duplicate their appeal:  basic multi-camera comedies like Hot In Cleveland and The Exes that starred former stars of network series.  Recently the network has been inching away from quite so explicit a bond with its older content, developing shows that maintain the same kind of traditional sitcom premises, but shot in single camera style and with more adult material.  Younger set the new mold, and the new IMPASTOR has a very similar style, although with less charm.  (The Jim Gaffigan Show, which will serve as Impastor‘s lead-in, is also a refurbished retro piece, but less dependent on a single high concept plot element.)

Like Younger, Impastor is about an impersonation.  Where Darren Star’s show featured Sutton Foster as a woman pretending to be 15 years younger than she was, compelled by the need to enter the work force at age 40, Christopher Vane’s Impastor pilot (directed by Rob Greenberg) gives us Buddy Dobbs (Michael Rosenbaum), on the run from loan sharks.  Thanks to some contrivances that turn it into Banshee without quite the body count, Buddy finds himself taking on the identity of a small-town pastor who is permanently out of the picture.  The joke is how unpastorly he is (he confiscates a teen’s weed for his own use), and the underlying sentimentality is that even though he’s there for cynical purposes, he really does help people.

The pilot has no use for subtlety.  Buddy is straight but the pastor he’s replacing is openly gay, which means that almost instantly, while Buddy latches on to hot Alexa (Mircea Monroe), Russell (Mike Kosinski) is all over him.  The Russell character is particularly over-the-top, in a way that recalls older sitcoms more unpleasantly than TV Land may have intended.  Meanwhile, Buddy garbles the Bible and acts in no way pastor-like, but the townspeople are far too dumb to realize anything is wrong.

Impastor can presumably keep this going for a while, as every week Buddy’s parishoners will have problems for him to backhandedly solve while he tries to bed Alexa and evade Russell, but there’s not much here to suggest that it will be worth following.  Even a comedy should have some emotional stakes, but Impastor is of the set-up/punchline school of sitcom.  Rosenbaum is believably slippery, and the cast also includes network veterans Sara Rue and David Rasche as two of the congregation’s leaders, as well as Aimee Garcia as Buddy’s girlfriend back in New York, who can’t figure out what’s happened to him.  All of them, though, are playing to caricature here, and there aren’t enough laughs for that to work.

Impastor wouldn’t last long on a broadcast network, and it doesn’t have the heart of either Younger or its Jim Gaffigan Show lead-in.  The ratings needed for “success” in this context, though, are probably relatively low, especially if the series can pull in some young male viewers, so it should get some time to reveal whether there’s anything to it beyond its plot gimmick.  The early indications are less than heavenly.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."