July 23, 2015

SHOWBUZZDAILY Pilot + 1 Review: “Impastor”


IMPASTOR:  Wednesday 10:30PM on TV Land (and Nick At Nite)

A lot can happen between the creation of a TV pilot and the production of regular episodes: writer/producers may be hired or fired, audience focus groups weigh in, networks and studios (which may have had their own turnover) give plenty of notes, helpful and otherwise, and critics start to rear their ugly heads. Tone, pace, casting, and even story can change. Here at SHOWBUZZDAILY, we look past the pilots and present reviews of the first regular season episodes as well.

Previously… on IMPASTOR:  Buddy Dobbs (Michael Rosenbaum), on the run from loansharks, considered suicide by jumping off a bridge, but small-town Lutheran minister Jonathan Barlow died instead while attempting to save him.  Barlow was on his way to a new posting in Ladnor, a community where no one has actually met him.  Buddy takes on the man’s identity, and despite the suspicions of the congregation’s leader Alden (David Rasche), Buddy has the warm support of parish secretary Dora (Sara Rue).  One wrinkle:  the real pastor was gay, and Buddy has to adopt that persona as well, which means that as he’s lusting after Alexa (Mircea Monroe), church treasurer Russell (Mike Kosinski) is all over him.

Episode 2:  The Impastor pilot ended with a cliffhanger, as a pair of the loansharks Buddy was evading showed up at the minister’s house with murder on their minds, and the show’s second episode, written by series creator Christopher Vane and directed by Rob Greenberg, immediately took care of the problem with the help of heavenly contrivance:  a bolt of lightning brought down a tree on the car that had Buddy in the trunk, wiping out the gangsters.  That set the tone for the episode, in which Buddy made two more unconvincing narrow escapes, one when he decided to attend his own memorial service and an idiot cop staring straight at him didn’t know who he was, and then when the dead loansharks had Buddy’s address with them when their bodies were found, and Buddy explained it with a scribbled note of his own purporting to be from one of the gangsters, saying he’d come all the way from Florida to thank Buddy for being kind to his sister.  Christopher Vane, it seems fair to say, is not one for narrative logic.

Impastor, of course, is a comedy, and silly plotting isn’t necessarily a major problem in a show that’s only looking for laughs.  The bigger issue is that its characters are so thin and repetitive.  You could already make a drinking game (or, perhaps more appropriately, a smoking one) out of the moments when Buddy is indulging in some weed when he has to quickly hide it before being interrupted, and there’s nothing to Russell at all beside his longing for Buddy’s bod.  (In this episode, hearing that the pastor was into leather bars, he showed up at Buddy’s house in full regalia.)  It’s going to take a miracle for the show’s one or two central jokes to maintain themselves over time, and although the cast is full of talented veteran actors, there’s only so much they can do with roles that don’t go anywhere.

Impastor is edgier than its TV Land lead-in The Jim Gaffigan Show–the episode featured a 4-letter word so strong the sound had to cut out–but edgy doesn’t mean smart, and Impastor appears content to be quite dumb.  The patience of its parishoners for such dim humor will determine how long Buddy’s impersonation lasts.

ORIGINAL VERDICT:  Change the Channel

PILOT + 1:  A Parish of Dim Bulbs

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."