Tag Archive: First Impressions


First Impressions episode 1

By Elizabeth C. Bunce

We recently previewed USA’s First Impressions, starring Freddie Prinze, Jr. and Dana Carvey.  The show premiered this week, and it looks like a winner.  The series pits aspiring comics in an “impression off” to wow an audience of judges and a celebrity guest for a prize of $10,000.  It’s not a competition show, like Last Comic Standing; it’s a game show with new contestants every week.  In fact, it feels a bit like a mashup of Lip Sync Battle and Whose Line is it, Anyway?, with a bit of Hollywood Game Night thrown in.

Three contestants offer up their best celebrity impressions in a variety of bits and sketches, while Carvey and a visiting comedian (Steve Carell in the pilot) cheer them on, offer commentary, and occasionally join in the fun.  Prinze keeps the fun moving as host and emcee.

dana-carvey-steve-carell-first-impressions

We’ve been a bit weary of the competition show format, so it’s always nice to see a fresh, upbeat take, without all the season-long drama, eliminations, and infighting.  First Impressions moves swiftly, giving each contestant plenty of time to showcase their talents.  Contestants on the pilot spoofed both perennial favorites like Al Pacino and Christopher Walken, as well as surprising choices like the hilarious Jennifer Coolidge (Legally Blonde, A Mighty Wind) and Drew Barrymore.  Everyone loves standup comedy, and the impersonators were fun to watch.  But the real draw for the show is Carvey and friends.  Carvey’s energy and enthusiasm are infectious, and the overall tone of the show is welcoming and collaborative, not combative.  At one point, when two contestants had each done impressions of Sharon Osborne, Carvey leaped from his chair and said, “I want to see the Sharons together,” initiating a joint bit where the comics played off each other.  It was a great moment that took this show to another level–not just game show, but comedy workshop.

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Dana Carvey and Freddie Prinz Jr

Of all the stars of Saturday Night Live to spend Saturday nights in our living rooms, few were as beloved as Dana Carvey.  Carvey’s Church Lady and Garth from Wayne’s World became icons of TV comedy.  He had mega-hit films with the two Wayne’s World movies, but you should also check out the comedy classic Opportunity Knocks co-starring Robert Loggia if you missed it.  But the last time we saw Carvey as a TV weekly regular was on the short-lived The Dana Carvey Show back in 1996.

Carvey will be the star of a new competition show beginning next month on USA Network.  More accurately he is the “expert comedy mentor in residence” to amateur impersonators competing with their celebrity impresions in front of Carvey and other comedy guests.  The show will be hosted by actor Freddie Prinze, Jr. son of the late comedian Freddie Prinze.  Comedy guests include Steve Carell, Jay Leno, Kevin Nealon, Yvette Nicole Brown, Tom Arnold, and Jon Lovitz.  Eighteen contestants are slated for the initial run of the show.

Lovitz Carvey

Check out these previews from USA Network for First Impressions:

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