By Lucy Doyle
This summer, endearing gay characters are taking comedy to church. Struggles with religion and public persona are recurring themes in two new TV Land series. Impastor features Buddy Dobbs (Michael Rosenbaum) as a down-on-his-luck gambler who goes undercover by stealing the identity of a small-town gay Lutheran pastor. In The Jim Gaffigan Show, comedian Jim Gaffigan is faced with balancing his Catholic faith and his celebrity status as a family-friendly act.
One might think a comedy that opens with a man casually rationalizing his planned suicide could prove too dark for a successful sitcom, but TV Land has taken a chance on Impastor and really runs with it. After a series of unfortunate events, gambler Buddy Dobbs seizes the opportunity to start anew by stealing the gay pastor’s identity. Unbeknownst to Dobbs are just about all the details of the pastor’s life. Piece by piece, Dobbs comes to realize he is faced with fitting into some rather righteous robes. Chuckling over suicide attempts and homophobia in the Church may seem a bit unorthodox, but a thorny love triangle with an enticing blonde bombshell (played by Mircea Monroe) and an enthusiastic male suitor manages to lighten the mood. Perhaps the best laughs come from the underutilized Sara Rue, who plays Buddy’s bubbly assistant, Dora.
Don’t come to Impastor for a dose of reality, or anything close to it. Much like the characters that populate the town, this is a friendly and easygoing—if somewhat bumbling—show. Give Impastor a few episodes to flesh out its multiple LGBT characters, who initially seem a bit oversexed. It’s worth the wait.
In the role of the Lutheran church’s secretary is former Second City performer and out improv actor Mike Kosinski. He’s a joy to watch in his television series debut, and he pulls his weight to keep the show from becoming offensive.
After years of routines about his family life and his voracious appetite, it’s fulfilling to see Jim Gaffigan play out his persona as a fake/real-life character in The Jim Gaffigan Show.
While Gaffigan takes the lead in this series, he does lend the mic to his chicly-dressed archnemesis, Daniel (Michael Ian Black). Their quick, catty exchanges are a highlight of nearly every episode. (Black may not actually be gay, but his own mother came out after her divorce with Black’s biological father. He says that being raised by a lesbian mother brought LGBT issues home to him.)
True to form, Daniel deals with some heavy Daddy issues, and Gaffigan takes on homophobia within the Catholic Church in an episode revolving around an antigay pizza chain. In this one storyline, Gaffigan’s overarching motifs of celebrity, religion, homosexuality, and his indefatigable love of food come crashing together.
Fans of Gaffigan’s stand-up will be pleased to learn that his humor translates smoothly and hilariously to this TV series. If you like your comedy with depth and self-deprecation, you’ll find it in The Jim Gaffigan Show.
Can’t get enough of Michael Ian Black? Tune in to Netflix’s Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp to learn how Black’s and Bradley Cooper’s characters meet—and to see other misadventures on the cult-classic campgrounds. Also on Netflix, you can catch up with everyone’s favorite sappho-erotic prison mates—and meet a new favorite, the androgynous heartthrob Ruby Rose—on Orange Is the New Black. And on Showtime’s Masters of Sex, Masters, Johnson, and Masters’ wife explore a three-way marriage.