By Josie Shaw
Have you ever wanted to prematurely rehearse monumental moments of your life with improvisational actors in a simulated environment while being filmed for a television show? No?
For only $9.99 a month, you can become a voyeur to Nathan Fielders new HBO Show, “The Rehearsal.” It’s like if Truman was also the director and writer of “The Truman Show”. It’s really weird.
Throughout Fielder’s previous show, “Nathan For You,” Fielder pushed the limits of acting and comedy by playing a manipulative satirical character inside real world scenarios. He used this persona to convince real life American business owners into making ridiculous marketing decisions for the benefit of their own company.
The reception of “Nathan For You” questioned and criticized the ethics of Fielder’s content. While its purposefully satirical, is the social commentary that it provides still justified with his devious and performative methods?
I rationalized it by seeing Fielder as an equal to the people he was working with. His self-caricature’s pathetic attempts at playing God are as equally cringeworthy to the shows other characters and their own lack of self-awareness.
“The Rehearsal” directly tackles this ethical paradox by forcing Fielder to partake into his own self-created nightmares.
The beginning of the series gives random people opportunities to rehearse important real-life scenarios for themselves, like admitting a lie to a friend. By the finale of the show, Fielder is the lead of the rehearsals by reliving different moments from the show.
For such an overly logistical and rational person, Fielder is emotionally intelligent and complex. The show contains many poignant moments that deconstruct themes of honesty, religion, trauma, and most of all, empathy.
Episode 4, titled “The Fielder Method,” is the most surreal of them all. In Oregan, Fielder is living in a 24/7 rehearsal simulating the experience of raising a child with a wife. Every week, the child actor is replaced by a slightly older actor until they reach age 18.
Shortly, Fielder leaves the rehearsal to train more actors for the show we are currently watching. During this process, the actors learn what is called “The Fielder Method,” also known as stalking strangers until you can embody them for a role. Like I said, the show is weird.
A few of the actors are understandably uncomfortable from this process. So, when Fielder can’t understand this as an issue, he does the most reasonable thing possible. He stalks the actors until he can completely embody their experience, learning empathy in the process.
It’s extremely over the top, but extremely effective.
Fielder reflects on his mistakes and lack of foresight, and alters the situation to be more comfortable for everyone. Well, except the audience.
These reflections continue into the finale “Pretend Daddy,” where Fielder has to resolve traumatizing a child actor on set who believes Fielder is his real father. Despite initially having positive intentions, it’s not clear if any of his experiments have really helped anyone. The only person who benefits from this experience is ultimately Fielder, and it is totally purposeful.
“The Rehearsal’s” exploration of Fielder’s psyche is a beautifully convoluted mess that I love to watch. It’s self-loathing, self-pitying and melodramatic, but can’t we all relate to that?