IMPOSTERS Review: “Pilot”

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Bravo may be trying to break new ground from its usual reality TV fare with IMPOSTERS — a sexy black comedy that follows the exploits of a seductive con woman (Inbar Lavi) — but sadly, it’s hardly a groundbreaking series.

Imposters follows the newest TV trend of the charming con-artist show like ABC’s THE CATCH or Amazon’s Sneaky Pete, but as of yet, it doesn’t have much anchoring its show outside of a stylish aesthetic and a magnetic lead actress. However for Bravo, whose most successful series are the endless spinoffs of The Real Housewives, Imposters is a chance for the soapy cable channel to rebrand. The channel’s third scripted series after the funny and frothy Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce and Odd Mom Out, Imposters offers both of those things but with a more mature spin — it does air at 10 p.m. after all.

The series opens on a bedraggled man, Ezra (Rob Heaps) after he’s learned that Ava, his doe-eyed new wife with a bad French accent had stolen all of his money and embezzled his family business. Contemplating suicide and ignoring the frenzied knocking at his door, Ezra reminisces to five weeks earlier, when he and Ava were fondly watching their joyous Jewish wedding video.

We dive deeper into Ezra’s life than I expected, following him as he obliviously goes about his day and doesn’t notice the flirtations of his lovelorn coworker Gaby or the red flags of a con being set up around him — Ava’s tight-lipped response to his observation about Mr. Ellis and his “Aunt Katherine” in their wedding video and Mr. Ellis’ sudden death at his work.

But Ezra reaches his moment of reckoning at the pet store, finding his credit card declined and his bank account empty. When he runs home in a panic, he find Ava missing and a website cryptically written in lipstick on the fridge. The site leads him to a video confessional of Ava, still in her bad French accent, apologetically telling him he will never see her again and blackmailing him with a folder in the freezer.

As Ezra has a breakdown on his front yard, a girl in a new bleach blonde bob is about to board a flight when she is spotted and hit on by Ezra’s fratty brother Josh. He recognizes the ankle bracelet from his brother and chases her before an accomplice who looks curiously like the dead Mr. Ellis nails him in the nose, allowing Ava and Mr. Ellis to escape notice and board the plane.

Now here is where you’d expect the POV shift, right? That’s the end of Ezra’s sad sack story and now we’d get a sexy montage of Ava — whose real name is Maddie — revealing her dastardly plan and oh-so-glamorous lifestyle. Nope, we get to slog through more of Ezra’s family dynamic and origin story.

The contents of the mysterious folder are revealed to be damning evidence of Ezra’s dad’s patent theft and 20-year affair. Here, Imposters tries to live up to that black-comedy label, allowing the dad to bluster like an ‘80s movie villain while Josh seethes through his broken nose. Meanwhile, the mother, who passive-aggressively bickers with her husband through the intercom, is one step away from permanently having a martini glass in her hand. It’s all quite flat and almost completely ruins Ezra for me, which is unfortunate since it seems he’ll be the semi-protagonist of the group hunting down our mystery con woman.

But as Ezra unravels, he finally becomes more fun (and more interesting-looking once he gets that perma-5 o’clock shadow). Obsessively watching his wedding video, he cooks up some crazy conspiracy theories that he sells to Gaby, who is game for whatever as long as she finally gets to be with the object of her affections. But things start to get weird — and hilarious — as Ezra asks Gaby to seduce him with a French accent, and that’s enough for Gaby to get over that crush quickly.

Ezra’s redeeming moment for me was oddly the montage in which he proves himself remarkably incompetent at killing himself. The montage offers the biggest, most morbid laughs of the episode, ending with Ezra slouched defeatedly on his couch with an orange industrial cord around his neck. But wait! We’re at the beginning of the episode again, and Ezra responds to the incessant knocks, opening up the door to a male model dressed as an FBI agent. But as the “agent” feverishly inquires after Ava, Ezra wises up over the fact that the agent can’t pronounce “bureau” and the two tussle.

The male model, actually a dumb-jock car salesman named Richard (Parker Young) reveals he was Ava’s conned husband as well, only she was a classy fast-talking New Yorker going by the name Alice. Ezra slowly comes to terms with the truth about his beautiful not-French wife, and proposes they use facial recognition software to find her.

Despite the potential in Ezra The Hero, the real saving grace of the show is Israeli actress Lavi, who is equal turns steely and vulnerable as Maddie. In a brief moment of respite from the non-stop cheesiness of the rest of the episode, Maddie spends a night alone smoking braless in her seedy motel, only being awakened by a call about her next mark.

Maddie meets with her two co-conspirators Max (Brian Benben) and Sally (Katherine LaNasa) and get introduced to their next mark — short-tempered banker Gary Heller (Aaron Douglas) — thanks to a file from their unseen benefactor, “The Doctor.” Maddie bashes the mysterious Doctor and suggests they make their own cons, but is quickly rejected. The three of them separate, bidding each other, “See you in the game.”

I’m not sure whether Imposters wants to go stylish or serious — the short scenes with Maddie stripped of costume and emotion were exception rather than the rule, and we seem to be setting up Ezra as the straight-man hero in a dysfunctional buddy-comedy with Richard. Next episode too, we’ll be adding a woman (Marianne Rendón) into this band of misfits, balancing out the parallel storylines between the chasers and the chased.

There’s not much to write home about in the imbalanced pilot, though Imposters does have room for potential. Already they seem to be acting on it, expanding Lavi’s range by giving her a sweet coffeeshop love interest (Stephen Bishop) to derail her plans, and introducing Oscar nominee Uma Thurman next week as the threatening and slightly unhinged “Doctor.”

I have little patience for sleek, attractive shows where sleek, attractive people fall in lust then in love, and I have even less patience for procedurals of the same nature (unless they involve some sort of sci-fi worm crawling out of people’s orifices). But throw in trashy romances, a dysfunctional buddy-comedy duo and a star-making turn from Lavi, and you may be on to something.

TB-TV-Grade-B-Season 1, Episode 1 (S01E01)
Imposters airs Tuesdays at 10PM on Bravo

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Hoai-Tran is a freelance pop culture journalist based in D.C., with an affinity for superheroes, TV, movies, and Jeff Goldblum memes. She currently works as a web producer for the Washington Examiner and has written for USA Today.
Follow Hoai-Tran on Twitter: @htranbui

Keep up with all of Hoai-Tran’s reviews here.

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