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‘The Rehearsal’ Review: Nathan Fielder Returns With Mixed Results

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Where to Stream It: HBO Max (new episodes every Friday)

Starring: Nathan Fielder

When I first stumbled upon Comedy Central’s Nathan for You, I knew I had discovered something brilliant. Nathan Fielder combined cringe comedy with a satire of reality TV to deliver a near-perfect comedy series. Now that it’s been almost five years since Nathan for You’s season finale, I was more than ready to see what Fielder had cooked up for his next project.

Aside from some work behind the scenes on Showtime’s Who is America? and HBO’s How To with John Wilson, we haven’t seen our beloved Nathan in front of the camera in far too long. The Rehearsal’s July 15th debut on HBO (and HBO Max) marks Nathan’s return at last.

A set-up like we've never seen before

Like Nathan for You, The Rehearsal plays to Fielder’s wheelhouse by showing him helping everyday people in a reality TV setting. This time around, there is a unique premise that escalates his antics.

Each episode features Fielder as he and his team construct elaborate sets complete with actors that are designed to replicate future scenarios his subjects will encounter.

The pilot episode follows a man that has been lying to his bar trivia team about his college background. He’s afraid of the reaction he’ll get from one teammate in particular once he finally comes clean about his lie.

Nathan helps the man rehearse the encounter with his teammate in a reconstruction of the bar he’ll have pizza and drinks in when he makes his confession. 

It all seems like an absurd number of steps to go through in order to prepare for a conversation, but that level of silliness is what makes the show funny,

How real is this reality?

As with most reality shows, there’s likely to be some questions in viewer’s minds over how much of this is legitimate. Some elements especially raise eyebrows. Despite being filmed during the COVID-19 pandemic, there seems to be little social distancing occurring in a small indoor bar, for example.

Other parts of the show seem to fit into a narrative structure that could have been manufactured for television. In particular, the series seems to provide a commentary on how much of the human experience can really be mapped out. In a world of algorithms and predictive technology, are there some things we just aren’t able to plan for?

It’s a nice message that will resonate with some who watch the series. But to appreciate this message, you'll need to suspend disbelief and just go along with the “reality” premise.

Final Thoughts: Shall You Stream It?

The Rehearsal fails to capture the same lightning in a bottle that Nathan for You did. While the concept is original, it’s odd enough to isolate some viewers. 

Only when you approach the show with a very specific mindset will you enjoy it the most. I feel like that might be too much of an ask for general audiences that aren’t as accustomed to Nathan Fielder’s brand of humor.

If you have already binged every episode of Nathan for You, then this show is worth checking out. Otherwise look elsewhere for something to watch on HBO Max. Trust me, there’s plenty of options. 

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Matt Davis
Matt Davis
Matt Davis is a writer, entertainment critic, and content creator that hails from the Kanas City area. He has been featured in various publications, including and CNET. As the founder of Shall I Stream It? he has helped it grow into a multi-platform media outlet that reaches over 100,000 viewers each month.
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