Bravo's ‘Imposters’ Is a Waste of Inbar Lavi's Talent

‘Imposters’ wades in the shallowest of emotional pools

Adrian Hennigan
Adrian Hennigan
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FILE PHOTO: This image released by Bravo shows Inbar Lavi in a scene from "Imposters," where she plays a con artist who tricks men and women into marrying her and then steals all their money.
Inbar Lavi in a scene from "Imposters."Credit: Ken Woroner/AP
Adrian Hennigan
Adrian Hennigan

Where do you stand on nudity on a plane? I don’t mean in a Mile High Club/bachelorette-party-from-hell kind of way, but in the more prosaic “watching on your laptop” kind of way. I ask based on a recent flight to Tel Aviv, where someone a few rows in front of me was watching a particularly graphic episode of the Netflix series “Altered Carbon,” in which naked clones of a woman sword fight (unsuccessfully) for their lives.

It’s a disturbing scene largely because of the woman’s naked vulnerability, which the camera takes great delight in sharing with us. (It’s interesting to compare it with another naked fight scene, this time involving a man – Viggo Mortensen in David Cronenberg’s 2007 thriller “Eastern Promises” – for an example of how they could have shot the scene to maintain the thrills without literally revealing everything.)

In fairness to Netflix, “Altered Carbon” is not a show that is coy about showing full frontal male nudity, either. But the point is, is this something we should be watching in public in the presence of children or people who may be offended by it?

Official Netflix trailer for Altered Carbon Credit: Netflix

Of course, the best punch line to this story would be if it had been an ultra-Orthodox man watching the show, but that wasn’t the case – it was a man in his 30s who watched the entire sequence oblivious to those around him and with no one else seeming to care (although that may be contradicted in years to come during a fellow passenger’s therapy session).

Who knows, maybe it’s my own voyeurism that’s the problem: I find it impossible to walk down an airplane aisle without checking out what everyone’s watching – and judging them accordingly. Sure, the person watching “Altered Carbon” may be insensitive to their surroundings, but the woman in front of me who watched a Sandra Bullock rom-com triple bill has an even bigger problem.

Still, given that more and more people are publicly watching shows on their laptops and smartphones, maybe Netflix should think of the children – won’t somebody? – and improve its rating system. The only warning about “Altered Carbon” says it’s for ages 16+ and is violent, which is a bit like saying “In the Realm of the Senses” involves “slight severing.”

Blanket coverage

Official trailer for Imposters television showCredit: FandangoNOW Extras

Completely unrelated to public nudity, I did something for the first time in my adult life this week: Watched a show currently in its sophomore season without catching up on season one first. Don’t tell me that wasn’t on your bucket list as well.

The show in question is “Imposters,” available on HOT 3 every single night of the week barring Tuesdays and Wednesdays (when the channel shows “Impastor” instead, which must be a nightmare for the hard of reading).

Far be it from me to accuse Israeli television of parochialism, but there really is only one reason this show receives such blanket coverage: the presence of Israeli actor Inbar Lavi in the lead role. It’s the same reason local soccer fans get to see all of Israeli star Eran Zahavi’s games for Guangzhou R&F in the Chinese Super League, and the same reason Gal Gadot generates so many headlines here: “Small country syndrome.”

Lavi plays con artist Maddie, who marries easy marks and then flees after taking them for every last cent. Season one saw three of her victims – Ezra (Rob Heaps), Richard (Parker Young) and Jules (Marianne Rendón) – team up to track her down and plot their revenge, which somehow meant they also had to become con artists themselves.

Of course, these aren’t the kind of crooks you might normally expect to find littering your courtrooms and prisons. These are more “artist” than “con” – charming, reluctant felons as likely to steal your affections as your worldly goods. Our three amateur desperadoes even operate by an ethical code in which they only rob “bad” people – although this plan only lasts as long as the attention span of the U.S. president.

To make it clear that we should be rooting for these unlucky-in-love yet lovable rogues, they’re called the Bumblers. And in case you’re still not sure, they’re also pitted against hardened criminals – the shotgun-packing, double-crossing variety it’s OK to dislike.

Inbar Lavi in a scene from "Imposters," where she plays a con artist who tricks men and women into marrying her and then steals all their money.Credit: Christos Kalohoridis/AP

What does it say about a show when you tune in a season in and not feel you’ve missed anything of note in the preceding 10 episodes – not anything you can’t work out very quickly, anyway? Sure, there’s an older character, Max (Brian Benben), whose backstory I had to read about online, but otherwise you could probably pay a visit to this show once a season and not feel disoriented.

Season one got largely positive reviews when it aired last year, with the Holon-born Lavi singled out for special praise (AV Club said she “will make you want to stick around for the long haul,” while Entertainment Weekly applauded her “undeniable allure and ability to rock a wig”).

Given this acclaim, the biggest surprise is how infrequently she appears in the opening episodes of season two. Instead, we’re stuck with those darned Bumblers, the jilted trio who have stolen Maddie’s expensive wedding ring – given to her by now ex-boyfriend Patrick (Stephen Bishop), who turned out to be an FBI agent working undercover (it’s that kind of show) – and are now trying to fence it.

This really is one of those series that goes in one eye and out the other, featuring a photogenic cast, sun-dappled settings, simple plot lines that suggest prime time on CBS (it’s actually Bravo) and is happy to wade in the shallowest of emotional pools.

It’s the kind of series where a character tells you they haven’t had sex in six months, so you know they’ll be falling into bed with someone in the next 30 minutes. It’s also the kind of show where the characters get one trait each (our Bumblers, for example, get dumb, dorky and dull): If you want fleshed-out, I must refer you back to “Altered Carbon.”

I was amazed to read co-creator Paul Adelstein say “Imposters” is “darker” in season two, because it’s such a light and frothy show. Maybe that’s because it’s not focused enough on Lavi’s character as she teeters on the edge of a PG-13-rated nervous breakdown. Adelstein claims we will see “what happens when you give your soul away over and over and over again,” but this is more “Suits” than Goethe.

From what I’ve seen so far, it’s also a waste of Lavi’s talent. My hope is that Noah Hawley casts her as the lead in season four of “Fargo” – a show that trades in brilliantly defined characters, brutality and intricate storylines, not merely a “con trick of the week.”

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