For a series premiere, “Imposters” is impressively self-aware. A new venture from Bravo into the intersection of love and the art of the con, “Imposters” strikes an effective balance between comedy and drama. The show approaches its somewhat unrealistic premise with a heavy dose of juvenile humor that is both well-executed and enjoyable. While not the most deftly produced program, and one without any semblance of star power among its cast, “Imposters” entertains with its snappy dialogue and compelling tale that indicates gratifying vengeance lies on the horizon for both its characters and its audience.
In “Imposters,” Inbar Lavi (“Gang Related”) stars as Maddie, a master con with a flair for the dramatic who relishes in her ruthlessness. Along with her cunning partners Max (Brian Benben, “Dream On”) and Sally (Katherine LaNasa, “The Campaign”), the trio infiltrate the lives of single, wealthy individuals and seduce them. After winning their affection, they’ll take their subjects for all they have — they’ll empty their bank accounts and max out their credit cards. These victims learn their fate quickly and mercilessly, and the series begins just as Maddie’s latest victim, Ezra (Rob Heaps, “Home Fires”), accepts the fact that he’s been played. It’s not the most plausible premise, especially when the show gets into the exact details of each con, but there aren’t enough holes in it to sink the series.
“Imposters” brings a nice twist to the traditional con storyline: real emotional investment. Maddie’s targets aren’t just abandoned to be broke and indebted — they’re emotionally devastated, having lost their longtime girlfriend, or spouse, in some instances. It’s a wholly novel take that gives the story weight and inspires more brutal, calculating revenge from these victims. Maddie may be confident in her belief that her victims “will never see [her] again,” but this unique brand of motivation will evidently put her future schemes to the test.
To complement its emotionally-charged storylines, the series relies on an effective blend of crude and self-deprecating humor. Led by Ezra, Maddie’s past targets take time to roast themselves for their current state and for ignoring the initial signs of her con. In a particularly funny scene, as Ezra sympathizes with another of Maddie’s past spouses, Bobby (Andrew Jenkins, “Lost Solace”), he asks if he, too, drowned his sorrows with “booze and a lot of crying.” To Ezra’s chagrin, Bobby simply responds, “No,” before going on to explain that he’s coped without frequent sobbing. There’s nothing earth-shattering about these scenes, but the jokes are conveyed precisely and work well at giving the show a lighter tone.
With its quality writing, it is rather disappointing that “Imposters” does not boast a stronger or more diverse cast. Outside of Lavi’s strong lead performance, many of the show’s actors bring little experience, and it shows from the opening minutes. Although they both handle the comedic duties of their parts well, Heaps and Jenkins consistently fail to bring emotional depth to their roles. Their overall response to Maddie’s con is both underwhelming and unconvincing, leading viewers to question whether they’re truly as upset about losing their spouses as they claim to be. Similarly, Benben and LaNasa neglect to bring anything lasting to the screen, even though their roles as Maddie’s partners would seem to afford them an excellent opportunity to develop intriguing and complex characters. Having such an anonymous and replaceable cast is one of the series’s biggest flaws, and it may ultimately hinder “Imposters” from gaining serious momentum.
At a time when television appears to consistently churn out underdone pilots and half-baked test-runs, “Imposters” breaks the mold. Well-crafted and intriguing throughout its premiere, the series has the potential for real, sustained success — if its cast can get its act together.