First Impressions

TV review by
Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media
First Impressions TV Poster Image
Mild but unfunny improv-with-impressions show strikes out.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

There are points to be made here about imitations -- are they insulting or flattering? Do people like to be imitated?

Positive Role Models & Representations

Some of the celebrities impersonated may not be such good role models. 

Violence

Some jokes have a violent edge: A routine about a carnival operator ends with a description of amputated arms. 

Sex

Some off-color jokes. A man does an impression of a lusty woman who likes things that are "hard" and "hairy." 

Language

Very occasional mild curses: "hell." 

Consumerism

Many celebrities are impersonated on the show.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Occasional references to drugs and alcohol.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that First Impressions is a comedy show where comics do improvisational impressions of celebrities. Mockery is gentle and not vicious, but there are some off-color jokes, including references to sexuality and drugs and alcohol. Expect very occasional mild cursing: "hell" and "damn." Some impressionists impersonate celebrities whom parents may not wish younger kids to know much about. Alternately, many people under 30 may not know many of the old-school celebrities imitated. 

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What's the story?

On the half-hour comedy show FIRST IMPRESSIONS, hosts Dana Carvey and Freddie Prinze Jr. join a different guest host and three contestants each week in front of a live audience. Each contestant has a talent for impressions they show off first. Then contestants are thrown into various situations in which they have to do a randomly selected impression, while pretending to compete on a game show or take on a new profession, for example. The comic judged the best by the hosts wins $10,000. 

Is it any good?

This trying-too-hard show screams '90s from its first seconds, with a saxophone-riff theme, neon titles, and a brick-wall set familiar to anyone who watched comedy specials during that decade. Not coincidentally, the '90s were also the peak of both Prinze and Carvey's careers, but this will decidedly not be their comeback. The problem with the show lies in its very conception. Impressions can be amusing, if they're fresh, surprising, and perhaps, most of all, practiced. So building a show around impressions combined with improv is flawed, since these people who are best at learning how to speak and act like someone else suddenly also have to come up with on-the-spot jokes. It doesn't work, and it hurts to watch.

Plus, though there's definitely a live audience, the laughs sound fake, and heaven knows the hosts are forcing their laughter (though guests such as Steve Carrell are game and amiable enough). At one point, the show's pilot resorts to having dueling Sharon Osbourne impressions going through the alphabet. It's every bit as drags-on-forever as you'd think. Even more painful are the segments where Carvey and his guest host give aspiring comics and impressionists advice. "What's funny is to take a celebrity and put them in a new situation," says Carvey, who then does a stale impression of Christopher Walken as a driving instructor. Frankly, Carvey, though you were indeed adorable in Wayne's World, we still haven't forgiven you for Master of Disguise, and this is no way to apologize.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Is stereotyping a necessary evil in comedy? Where is the line between funny and hurtful, especially when someone is the subject of impersonation? Why is it funny to imitate someone? 

  • Would the celebrities being impersonated on this show enjoy the portrayal? Would it make you uncomfortable to watch with one of the celebrities? Is being imitated part of the price of fame? 

TV details

For kids who love comedy

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