Intrigue, deception, wig-based personas — Bravo's new series, Imposters, looks like the perfect series to dive into when everything else in the world kind of seems like it's falling apart. Is Imposters based on a true story? I can understand why you might think so, because Bravo has been playing with the idea of blurring the lines between reality and fiction when it comes to marketing this series. Obviously, the network is best known for its reality programming, so people might already be thinking that Imposters is a docuseries. And then, the network doubled down by starting an ad campaign that created fake social media profiles claiming to be the series' protagonist, Ezra, begging people to help him find his missing wife.
Of course, once the first trailer was released, it became clearer that the show is actually scripted, and the creators did not intend to base the story on anyone real — as they told critics at the TCAs, according to Deadline, "We wanted to con the audience whenever possible." So no, Imposters is not based on a true story — as it turns out, the premise is far more inspired by con artist tropes and movies than real cases of identity theft. Maddie is far more of a Danny Ocean type con artist than a real con artist.
However, what the show does have is some very specific similarities to other shows and movies about con artists. Even if you just look at different aspects of the show's concept and pilot episode, it's seemingly inspired by some other entries in the genre.
A Rag-Tag Group Of Heroes
Of course, this is a time-honored trope within almost every genre, but when it comes specifically to the heist or con genre, there's a great tradition of getting a team together that might initially seem mismatched, but is actually perfect for the trouble at hand. The Sting's mismatched duo and the teams in both (soon to be three!) versions of Oceans' Eleven are good examples.
Oh Shoot, I Married A Person With A Fake Identity
This trope is found in Mr. & Mrs. Smith and The Killers, among others. I suppose The Stepfather might qualify, though that's hovering between the con artist and the horror genres. But marrying someone and slowly realizing that they're not who they said they were — and that they're planning something.
A Woman! With Con Artist Abilities!
Of course, Imposters isn't hiding that Maddie is a mastermind — it's all over the show's advertising. But using a beautiful woman's ability for lies and deceit as a punchline or big twist has been done before — just think of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.
Out-Conning The Con
This seems to be where Imposters is heading, with the trio of Ezra, Jules, and Richard attempting to piece together where Maddie is, and who she's working for. If the show turns out to be anything like Duplicity (it's about spies, not conmen, but close enough), then either one of the trio or someone who joins their team may turn out to have a secret identity themselves.
Conning Teaching People About Themselves
Many movies about a big con or heist are light, fluffy, and don't really have too much to say about the human condition. The characters don't really grow or change or learn anything. But there is a subset that are about the characters growing and bettering themselves because of their experiences, like Catch Me If You Can (a coming-of-age story), Matchstick Men (about how to be a better parent), and The Brothers Bloom (about being a deeply annoying but loving brother). From the opening moments where goofy, pathetic Ezra halfheartedly tries to kill himself, I think it's clear that Imposters is going to going to teach its characters a few things.
Con Artists With A Heart (Sort Of)
While Maddie might start off the series by stealing everything out from underneath the good guys, she's too complex to become a simple supervillain. Her boss, her dissatisfaction with her job, and the arc of most drama series suggest that she'll be more sympathetic than she seems at first, and that's not rare. For example, the series Leverage followed a group of cons who started using their skills for good. Even Ant Man starred a con man so nice, he only stole corporate secrets.
If you look back to other depictions of con artists and the whole heist genre, you'll see plenty of Imposters reflected back — this show is taking some inspiration from the best.