Have you ever wished you could rehearse certain moments in life? Like a breakup or married life. Have you ever thought of what you could have said during an argument once it's already over? Nathan Fielder's new HBO original show airing on NOW TV indulges the fantasy of practicing for some of life's toughest scenarios, making for the funniest, sweetest, and most original TV show we've ever seen.
Nathan Fielder is an experimental comedian, which might sound tedious, and it is, but not in a bad way; the microscopic detail he goes into while breaking life down to a social science is so uncannily comedic. It even has a tendency to pull on our heartstrings. Like watching a baby elephant take a bath, we run the gamut of emotions very quickly.
He plays God in 'The Rehearsal'. There's no other way to describe the worlds that he creates which are curated, run, mapped, watched, and ruled by him, even down to the weather. Like, he literally whips up winter in one experiment with the ease of cooking a ham and cheese omelette — ice on the ground, frost on the trees, enough snow to conjure up quite a few igloos, the works.
In theory, he wants to help people curb their social anxieties that come with difficult conversations or life decisions. Aw, wholesome. In practice, it seems like he wants to fuck with people's heads, at least a little bit, and for the most part it's absolutely gas to watch him as he does things like subliminally convincing a client to help a stranger dig for gold.
He creates conversation maps, predicting every possible direction interactions could go, he creates life-size replicas of bars, restaurants, and people's homes, and he hires actors who employ "the Fielder method" (ahem, soft stalking your muse) to accurately portray key subjects in an effort to make these practice realities as realistic as possible.
In the first episode, Fielder manages to pull it off; his client wants to tell his friend that he actually does not have his masters degree and is extremely nervous about her potential reaction. At a quiz night, his client plans to strike. Fielder understands that this client will be thrown off by any poor performance regarding the quiz trivia, so he preemptively feeds his subconscious the answers the questions he has ensured will be on the roster that night.
Not only does he get to map out reality for himself and others, he gets to subvert the fake reality he's created; when his experimental wife Angela disagrees on raising their "son" as Jewish, he brings him to secret Judaism classes. He blithely skites the child with a bottle of water in a bleak car park after each class. Swimming lessons, he tells Angela, justified with voice over statements like "this is my show" and calls it a day. It's the 'Truman' show, but Fielder is both Truman and Christof.
The experiments unravel like a Matryoshka nesting doll and become metaphysical; Fielder begins to crave deeper understanding and thus experiments within his experiments. For instance, he takes on the persona of one of his actor's parents to try an understand him more. So believable is his performance, he's just short of sprouting breasts.
Some people have argued against Fielder's hypothesis that being able to rehearse for certain situations makes life easier. And honestly, when we see one of the actor's who played Fielder's 6-year-old version of his "son" repeatedly and tearfully refer to him as "daddy" outside of the experiment, we're heartbroken for him. It all seems a little bit messed up.
But honestly, this is not only the most creative form of reality TV that perhaps we've ever witnessed, it's some of the best TV we've seen in years. It's branded as one thing: a comedy-docuseries, but just like in Fielder's experiments, the series itself is a micro-dose of life. It'll have you in tears, make you split your sides laughing, and everything in between.
Watch 'The Rehearsal' on NOW TV.