TV Review: TV Land’s ‘The Jim Gaffigan Show,’ ‘The Impastor’

The Impastor The Jim Gaffigan Show
Courtesy of TVLand

TV Land’s branding makeover got off to a promising start with “Younger,” but takes a less-sharp turn with the premiere of two not-terribly compatible comedies, “The Jim Gaffigan Show” and “The Impastor.” The former congenially adds to the long list of series built around a comedian playing a slightly tweaked version of himself, which has produced dozens of failures since “Seinfeld.” The latter hinges on a desperate guy who is forced to impersonate a pastor, a charade that produces a too-familiar series of gags and, despite Michael Rosenbaum’s appeal, one whose longevity will likely require another kind of divine intervention.

If nothing else, viewing these programs together underscores that giving a network a facelift is a trial-and-error process, one in which executives are more apt to stumble into something that works than devise a plan and stick to it.

Gaffigan doesn’t have to stretch much playing Jim Gaffigan, a successful standup comic with an entire handful of young kids and a wife, Jeannie (Ashley Williams), who cheerfully tolerates his general ineptitude in dealing with them. Leveraging his membership in the comedy fraternity, the show loads up on celebrity and media cameos (including the likes of Jon Stewart and Chris Rock), taking off on flights of fancy, like Jim’s fear of having a vasectomy; and his paranoia about being identified as a Christian boomeranging back at him through the media ecosystem.

Happily married, Jim’s best pal is another comic, Dave (a very amusing Adam Goldberg), a neurotic womanizer prone to mocking Jim’s hectic life — in one episode hitting on Jeannie’s sister when she pays a visit, much to his friend’s chagrin.

There are several funny lines tossed off within the show’s banter (“You look like every bad guy on ‘Downton Abbey,’” or Jim describing his wife as a “Shiite Catholic” on the subject of procreation), but the series also devotes too much time to bits from Gaffigan’s squeaky-clean standup act, such as his love affair with bacon and constant preoccupation with what he might eat next.

Some of the episodes almost rise to the level of inspired farce, and like Gaffigan, the series has an affable quality to it; still, the premise generally feels a lot slimmer than its star is, as those around the self-deprecating comic constantly remind him.

In “The Impastor” (a really awful title, incidentally), Rosenbaum plays Buddy Dobbs, a general ne’er-do-well who finds himself deeply in debt to the wrong people. Panicking, he clambers onto a bridge to end it all, only to have a kindly clergyman seek to intervene, not-so-comically plunging to his death instead.

As luck, convenience and lazy writing would have it, the late reverend was on his way to a new job where nobody has met him, allowing Buddy to assume his identity. The too-coy twist is that the pastor left his old church after coming out as gay, which leads to additional complications that include fending off romantic advances from two church staffers: a gay man (Mike Kosinski) and straight woman (“Episodes’” Mircea Monroe), the latter convinced Buddy might be willing. She’s right, of course, but he doesn’t dare prove it, lest he blow his cover.

Faster than you can say “The Riches,” Buddy is inexplicably winning over most of the congregation and his cheerful aide (Sara Rue, deserving of better) by spouting empty platitudes and offering unorthodox spiritual advice — a flourish that simply makes these churchgoing folk look like simpletons.

“I knew I couldn’t fool these people for long,” Buddy says in voiceover, having hatched a plan to clean out the dead man’s bank account and move on. Instead, the series forces him to stay, naturally, while proceeding in serialized fashion, with Buddy facing lingering threats of detection by either the hoods or the police.

Showrunner Christopher Vane has some fun with the miraculous saves Buddy experiences (could that be a sign, he wonders), but goes to the well too often in having Rosenbaum respond to awkward situations with blank stares and double takes. Ultimately, it feels like one joke stretched far too thin, with the added complication that its jokey approach to religion is likely to offend some people without compensating for that with thoughtful satire.

Buddy is right about one thing: In any ordinary world, he wouldn’t be able to fool people for long. For “Impastor” to have much of a future beyond the previewed episodes, he’ll have to start by fooling viewers into thinking there’s really a show here.

TV Review: TV Land's 'The Jim Gaffigan Show,' 'The Impastor'

(Series; TV Land, Wed. July 15, 10 p.m./10:30 p.m.)

Production

Filmed in New York by JAX Media.   /// Filmed in Vancouver by All in Vane, the Tannenbaum Co. and CBS Television Studios.

Crew

Executive producers, Peter Tolan, Michael Wimer, Jim Gaffigan, Seth Gordon, Alex Murray, Sandy Wernick; co-executive producers, Kerry Orent, Jeannie Gaffigan, Leslie Dennis; director, Gordon; writers, Tolan, Jim Gaffigan; music, Reggie Watts, Chris Alan Lee. 30 MIN.  ///      Executive producers, Christopher Vane, Eric Tannenbaum, Kim Tannenbaum, Rob Greenberg, Michael Rosenbaum, Keith Cox; producer, Wayne Carmona; director, Greenberg; writer, Vane; camera, Clark Mathis; production designer, David Willson; editor, Joe D’Augustine; music, Danny Lux; casting, Collin Daniel, Brett Greenstein. 30 MIN.

Cast

Jim Gaffigan, Ashley Williams, Adam Goldberg, Michael Ian Black, Tongayi Chirisa  ///   Michael Rosenbaum, Sara Rue, Aimee Garcia, Mircea Monroe, Mike Kosinski, David Rasche

Filed Under:

Want to read more articles like this one? SUBSCRIBE TO VARIETY TODAY.
Post A Comment 13

Leave a Reply

13 Comments

Comments are moderated. They may be edited for clarity and reprinting in whole or in part in Variety publications.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

  1. Christy says:

    I love the show Impastor. Funny as heck!!!!

  2. Julie says:

    Love this show. The writing is brilliant and the cast is great!

  3. I am not a stuffy religious person, but the program “Impastor” seems sacrilegious, insensitive, and guilty of religion bashing. If it were a program depicting an Islamic clergy person, someone in your production department would probably be dead already. Not many Christians would attack you in that way, but I think that this humor is sick and very offensive to many people with sincere religious beliefs.

  4. Clint Jones says:

    TV Land used to be a great channel to watch. Good clean shows that we all grew up with. Your new shows and line up of programming is shameful. You folks should really be ashamed.

  5. Victor says:

    Impastor steals/borrows/mimics pretty much its entire premise from Banshee, a much more interesting show. They should have just kept the name as Imposter is that pun is all the wit they can drum up.

  6. melissa miller says:

    I think both shows are completely horrible. I wouldn’t waste my time watching either.

  7. jim smith says:

    show is stupid!! this guy needs to find different work…he is not funny at all

  8. Ebony says:

    I really enjoy watching the Jim Gaffigan Show. I love the way Jim interacts with food and his family.

  9. Mary Griffin says:

    Impastor is a mockery to all religious believers. I think it was thoughtless and disrepectful to create a show that mocks the religious leaders of today. Being in a leadership role in the religious world is not something that should be made fun of. To use God’s name in vain to create such entertainment is preposterous. My desire is that the show does not continue and ratings are not very good.

  10. Boohoo says:

    The Gaffigan show with WAY too many kids and a boring wife…..not tuning in again. Are we back to the Stone Age? Barefoot (literally) mother pumping out babies while hubby brings home (apparently too much of) the bacon? Seriously??

  11. Henry and Diana Corro says:

    I think everything you said is dead wrong about “IMPASTOR”. My wife and I were pleasantly surprised at the writing, edginess and the new concept. I also think the Gaffigan show has potential. There have been successful shows after Seinfeld. If not, how do you explain all of “Louie” Emmy awards? we hope TV land gives the shows a chance, in spite of your review.

  12. Natalie says:

    Younger, GF Show, Impaster…branding? More like lost identity.

More TV News from Variety

Loading