HBO Max’s ‘The Rehearsal’ Is Surprisingly Deep
Last weekend, we saw the start not of another successful superhero miniseries, but of something that could be described as the polar opposite of that. HBO Max took Nathan Fielder, star of Nathan For You, and gave him what looks like a blank check to do whatever he wants to do next.
And that weird thing is repetition. It also looks like it will be one of the most profound TV experiences in quite some time.
The premise is so weird it’s hard to even put it on paper. In short, Nathan finds real people who are faced with something they avoided doing, then helps them “rehearse” that scenario before doing it in real life. This first episode has a man who lied to his local trivia team for a decade about having a master’s degree because he was embarrassed he didn’t have one, and Nathan drags him in by telling his friend who he thinks may be the most hostile to find. The lie.
The “comedy” part here is the length that Nathan Fielder does to facilitate this. In the first, Nathan, demonstrating the concept, makes a 1:1 replica of the guy’s apartment so he can practice meeting him for the first time and try to figure out what jokes will land in their conversation. Later, Nathan makes a perfect 1:1 replica of the local bar where the man’s conversation will take place, down to the condiments on the table and the rips on the chairs. The funniest part of the episode is when Nathan realizes the guy will be too distracted by the trivia himself if he doesn’t do well, so on several walks with the man over the week, plants the answers to the anecdotes he took beforehand into the man’s head so he can reference them without technically “cheating” (“the door code is 1789, like the date of the French Revolution “)
But when you reach the end of the pilot and see Nathan’s plan go into action, you realize what this show is all about. really supposed to embody, and how wholesome that can be. It is essentially a physical manifestation of internal social anxiety. Nathan literally draws conversation trees so the man can jump from topic to topic with maximum effect, which I’m sure anxious people wish they could do in real life.
Like Nathan to you, it also feels like it’s going to be about Nathan and his own insecurities, although even after all this time I can’t really tell what he kinda does and what he does not do. But the point is, The Rehearsal is about something much bigger than building perfect replicas of bars and apartments and hiring cast replacements. It’s about the human connection itself, and I can’t wait to see what future storylines unfold under Nathan’s all-knowing eye.
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