The Jim Gaffigan Show, 10 p.m. ET/PT Wednesday, July 15, TV Land. Three stars out of five
Impastor, 10:30 p.m. ET/PT Wednesday, July 15, TV Land. Two stars out of five
TV Land has seen the light in the creation of two new sitcoms premiering Wednesday, but the results aren’t entirely heavenly.
Both “The Jim Gaffigan Show,” starring the cuddly comic, and “Impastor,” with “Smallville’s” former Lex Luthor, are not only unafraid to bring religion into their respective story lines, they pretty much revel in it. One of the shows is a blessing, the other not only breaks the commandment against stealing, it isn’t very funny.
Gaffigan plays a version of himself, following in the footsteps of other comics like Jerry Seinfeld and Louis C.K. He’s a fairly successful standup who’s known for working clean and has a loving wife named Jeannie (Ashley Williams) and five young kids. Jeannie’s former boyfriend, Dan, is a gay New York real estate broker who is too much a part of Jim and Jeannie’s household for Jim’s taste. Jim’s best friend is a fellow comic named Dave Marks (Adam Goldberg) with the morals of a moose in mating season.
Jim always means well, but he is a constant screw-up. He flies home early from an out-of-town gig with the stated intention of having a “super great daddy day” with the kids, and six minutes later is sprawled on the bed eating. In fact, the one sin he can’t seem to avoid committing is gluttony.
The show, created by Gaffigan and “Rescue Me” co-creator Peter Tolan, makes frequent use of Gaffigan’s many friends in standup, including Chris Rock, Dave Atell, Janeane Garofalo and … Macauley Culkin? Yeah, he’s got a pair of sweet cameos in the early episodes.
The comedy is gentle, a bit musty here and there, but the show grows on you. One reason is that everyone is so gosh darn likable.
Religion — specifically, the Gaffigans’ Catholicism — plays a subtle but important role in many of the episodes. This is a religious household. There is a crucifix in the bedroom and paintings of the Virgin Mary. Jim refers, lovingly, to his wife as a “Shiite Catholic.” The show’s pilot episode hauls out the over-used “dad thinks about having a vasectomy” plot, but gives it a slightly different spin because the Gaffigans do not believe in birth control. A later episode titled “The Bible Story” is an over-the-top riff on the reality that being known as religious can be the kiss of death for a standup comic.
This isn’t TV Land’s first foray into mixing comedy with religion: Cedric the Entertainer has played the title role of a preacher in “Soul Man” since 2012.
”Gaffigan” is all pretty smart, even if it isn’t fall-on-your-ass — excuse me, posterior — hilarious. You could make worse choices on TV.
For example, you could choose to keep watching TV Land for its second new show, “Impastor,” directly after “Gaffigan.”
To sum it up in a nutshell, let’s just call it “Brother Act,” because it’s a lame ripoff of the two “Sister Act” movies. All it lacks is fake Rev. Barlow (Michael Rosenbaum) leading the choir in some golden oldies.
Rosenbaum plays con man and all around loser Buddy Dobbs who, through gimmickry we won’t detail out of kindness toward the soon-to-be-unemployed writer who thought it up, hides out as the new gay pastor of a Lutheran church in a small town. He has his own parsonage, where he smokes dope and even entertains hookers, and is the focus of constant attention from the church council.
Council member Alexa (Mircae Monroe) has an inkling that the pastor isn’t really gay, but Russell (Mike Kosinski), who is gay, immediately crushes on him. It is okay if he is gay, he’s told, as long as he remains celibate because the church doesn’t want any gay canoodling going on. Implicitly, it would be okay with straight canoodling, one assumes. That’s fairly offensive, but we’ve already been offended by how much of a stereotype Russell is, so what’s another crumb of antiquated bigotry?
The most irritating fact about “Impastor” is that, even if it’s a “Sister Act” ripoff, it could have been a good ripoff. Nothing is at all believable in the script, and nothing’s very funny either. On top of that, the charm and abilities of Rosenbaum and Sara Rue, who plays the church secretary, are wasted with bad writing.
Divine intervention couldn’t make this show worth your time.
David Wiegand is the TV critic and an assistant managing editor of the San Francisco Chronicle. Distributed by The New York Times News Service.