TV programming is extremely cyclical, having the tendency to feed off of itself. Family sitcoms, cop shows, or medical dramas all seem to flood the airwaves for a while, then recede. Right now, there is an astonishing number of time-travel shows on TV, and coming up right behind that genre is the con-artist show. So following the well-received Good Behavior on TNT and ABC’s The Catch, Bravo now gives us Imposters.
It’s only the third scripted show for Bravo, the former opera-toting network that then descended into a slew of Real Housewives reality shows. The network’s first few outings, Girlfriends’ Guide To Divorce and Odd Mom Out, have established the network as capable of smart, stylish series, and Imposters definitely continues that streak, enticing the audience with a con artist so irresistible, they’ll soon be as hypnotized as her many victims.
Imposters craftily starts out with the story of Ezra (Rob Heaps), a newlywed who discovers that his charming Québécois wife, Ava, has left him and taken off with all of his money, and the money from his family business. He morosely stays in his apartment and watches their wedding video on repeat until he’s discovered by Richard (Parker Young), who has a similar story about his wife, Alice (who looks exactly like Ava). The two then try to track down Ava/Alice, only to discover that she has a third spouse, a woman this time (Marianne Rendón), who joins them on their quest.
Meanwhile, we watch Ava/Alice, whose real name is Maddie, move on to her next mark in Seattle: surly banker Gary Heller (Aaron Douglas, best known as Battlestar Galactica’s chief). Her next persona is sexy office assistant Saffron, complete with a squeaky Minnie Mouse voice, and it’s clear from the outset that Heller doesn’t stand a chance. Maddie is aided in her quest by Max (Brian Benben) and Sally (Katherine LaNasa), who also don disguises that range from a nondescript IT guy to a charmingly accented housekeeper.
While on paper that may all sound pretty straightforward, Imposters throws some wrenches in the works. Some are contrived: Why doesn’t Ezra just take the money his parents are offering him to fuel his search for Ava? Probably because then we couldn’t see Ezra and his new pals become con artists themselves to pay their way for their cross-country road search. These orchestrated efforts offer a chance to see how difficult the cons we see on TV and film would be: You can “borrow” someone’s credit card at the gas station, but you need their zip code. Pickpocketing a wallet right out of someone’s jacket is a good way to get caught. It’s also amusing to see their educational efforts, using The Grifters as source material, and easy to get enveloped in their search for this unknowable enigma.
In the larger picture, it’s harder to see what’s in this for Maddie and her fellow con artists. They’re bilking these people of millions of dollars; shouldn’t that be enough to set them up for a while? Instead, they appear to be at the mercy of a mysterious leader called “The Doctor” (who’s seen performing surgery, so an actual doctor), who has a scary cleaner (Uma Thurman, probably the biggest name in the cast). Why can’t they get out? What does The Doctor have on them? Where could this all possibly end?
While not exactly earth-shattering television, Imposters offers some fun, light-hearted escapism, dropping a few tricks of the trade along the way. But the show made an extremely fortunate find in lead Inbar Lavi. She manages to hang onto her Maddie persona just under the surface of all of the guises she dons, chameleon-like. Even though she’s doing terrible things to people, she seems to at least make them happy for a while, or, in the case of Heller, they appear to deserve it. (Aspiring con artists Ezra and Richard create an amusing code that lists the types of people they will and will not con in future endeavors.) Lavi’s pull is so strong that we can’t help but root for Maddie, and feel bad for her when she isn’t able to continue a possible romance with a guy she actually likes (Stephen Bishop) because of the many risks of her profession. As with Michelle Dockery’s Letty on Good Behavior, it appears to be the case of a good person doing bad things in the persona of a completely compelling character, but Imposters is light where Good Behavior goes dark. Imposters’ fun premise may pull you in, but Lavi will make you want to stick around for the long haul.