A ground-breaking social experiment that pushes the TV format to its limits while eliciting humor and human emotion. A truly unique series.
This review of the HBO original series The Rehearsal season 1 does not contain any major spoilers.
Nathan Fielder is best known for creating the critically acclaimed series Nathan for You, which blended Sacha Baron Cohen’s style of mockumentary humor with Brass Eye’s cultural parody and tendency to make the headlines with their real-world shenanigans. As the show evolved, the series continued to blur the lines between fact and fiction, concluding with the feature length opus “Finding Frances”. In that series finale, Nathan Fielder helped an old man find his lost lover, with one particular scene involving the man actually rehearsing this possible reunion with his ex. This actor’s workshop perfectly laid the foundations for Nathan Fielder’s hotly anticipated return to TV, inspiring the Canadian comedian to wow us with his latest social experiment, The Rehearsal.
Honing these skills from his breakout hit, Nathan Fielder has crafted something truly remarkable with The Rehearsal, practically creating his own genre in the process. This unique docu-reality comedy six-part series feels like a real-life reimaging of The Truman Show or Charlie Kaufman’s Synecdoche, New York.
In the show, Nathan Fielder helps individuals practice living out important life events, where he plans for every perceivable outcome that may arise, in the hopes of suppressing any and all of the anxieties born from this issue. By going to such incredible lengths, Fielder aims to provide the perfect rehearsal, seamlessly merging together realities until you’re not quite sure what is real and what is staged. He reconstructs entire buildings and hires an army of actors to aid in concocting these deranged simulations, fully immersing the test subjects in these crazy worlds that mirror our own fantasies and fears. It’s a truly fascinating watch that will leave you dumbfounded.
By preparing for these major life events in such psychotic, I mean, meticulous detail, Nathan Fielder manages to generate many genuine, lightning in a bottle moments, ranging from the hilarious to the downright poignant. There are some engrossing Middle American character studies thrown in there as well and as always Fielder has a keen eye for reflection, finding eloquence and insightful philosophy in the mundane. It’s a ground-breaking concept that Nathan Fielder pushes to its limits, one he is constantly altering and adapting on the whim of his subjects.
The series is packed full of comedy gold, human frailty and surprisingly raw emotion, working on every front. Fans of Nathan for You and How to with John Wilson (which he executive produced) will not be disappointed, this is just as complex and breath-taking as his earlier work. Originality is hard to come by in the TV industry these days, but with The Rehearsal, Nathan Fielder has managed to produce something truly innovative, which breaks new ground in the entertainment world. And for that he should be applauded.
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