“The Rehearsal” review: A fine line between actuality and deception


Courtesy of IMDb

David Culotta, Staff Writer

Nathan Fielder’s “The Rehearsal” is a dizzying, unsettling, and sometimes beautiful look into what happens when you give a madman an HBO budget and release him into the world.

Fans of Fielder’s previous show, “Nathan For You,” will recognize many of his signature elements, such as unnecessarily elaborate schemes, impossibly over-the-top characters that may or may not be “real people,” and of course Nathan wearing silly outfits for seemingly no reason at all. The premise of “The Rehearsal” is so niche that although I have recommended the show to as many people as I possibly can, I am still incapable of describing what the show is actually about. 

Nathan initially presents the show as being an episodic comedy where he helps people, probably best described as “contestants,” rehearse for important life events by perfectly replicating every detail of the scenario they will encounter before they must attempt to deal with the scenario in the real world. While this description may not seem that maddening, it should be noted that the “perfect replicas” include an entire building crafted with every detail set to emulate its real-life counterpart, from the tilted paintings on the wall, to the exact spices in the spice rack, as well as a hiring actors to follow and gain information about their “mark” in order to perfectly replicate the behaviors and mannerisms as some important figure in the contestant’s life. 

As the season progresses, the show slowly descends into something much more disturbing, with each episode leaving the viewer feeling as though Nathan has committed some sort of crime, even though he has done nothing illegal whatsoever. While the show remains comedic throughout every episode, one quickly begins to wonder how much of the show is “real” and how much of it is staged, hoping for the sake of the people involved that much more of it is staged than the audience was initially promised.

But at a certain point, the realization begins to set in that it doesn’t matter because at the end of the day, Nathan Fielder has complete and total control over everything (and everyone) you are watching, and he is going to use every resource at his disposal to tell exactly the story that he wants to tell, regardless of whether the viewer thinks what he is doing is “ethical.”


“The Rehearsal” is now available on HBO Max.


Illustration by Ariel Landry