By Ben Thomson, Staff Writer
Where the hell do I start?
The Rehearsal begins with comedian Nathan Fielder entering the home of trivia fanatic Kor Skeet. Fielder immediately breaks the ice with awkward jokes. Skeet, as we learn, has been lying to his friends about having a master’s degree for years and wants Fielder to help him come clean.
But Fielder also has a secret: Prior to their meeting, Fielder spent days rehearsing with an actor who looks like Skeet in a one-to-one replica of the real Skeet’s apartment (built using digital scans captured by a team of fake exterminators).
He intends to help Skeet do a similar rehearsal, where the two can meticulously predict every possible outcome. The rest of the pilot sees Skeet confess his secret repeatedly to an actress playing his friend in a perfect replica of their local haunt; Fielder plays an omniscient observer, adding detail after detail to the massive probability diagram on the laptop hanging from his shoulders until they finally get it right.
It would be very easy for me to spend the rest of this review recapping what happened in each episode in great detail. The remaining five episodes somehow get crazier and crazier, despite each being half the length of the pilot. The Rehearsal almost demands this level of dissection. Fielder’s obsession with authenticity leads him down a path of meticulous detail, as he tries to perfect his rehearsal method.
By episode four (appropriately titled “The Fielder Method”), Fielder starts to doubt his own methods, deconstructing the show’s formula in real time. From there, he keeps going inward, eventually becoming a participant in his own constructed reality. And yet, rewatching the show reveals this to have always been the case.
But this begs the question: What of the other subjects? If The Rehearsal is ultimately just Fielder’s own pseudo-therapeutic piece of performance art, does that not dehumanize and (in some cases) unnecessarily humiliate the real people involved?
Take Angela, the show’s unofficial second main character. She joined the show hoping to experience 18 years of motherhood in just two weeks. She’s a devout Christian, a conspiracy theorist and, yes, often the butt of the joke.
And what about Skeet? There’s no denying that some viewers got a kick out of his odd nature. Is Fielder responsible for how the audience perceives them? Should we feel bad for laughing at people who, at the end of the day, went to Fielder for help? This question has led many to accuse Fielder of being manipulative and exploitative.
These sorts of accusations would drive most artists insane trying to deny. But Fielder isn’t like most artists. He wants you to engage with The Rehearsal in a critical way and consider whether he’s being exploitive. In fact, the final two episodes revolve around that question.
One of the most harrowing moments of the show involves Fielder rehearsing a fight with an actress playing Angela.
“Why are you here?” “Why are you doing this?” “Is my life a joke to you?” These are lines written by Fielder to deliberately use against himself.
There’s a lot more I could say about the show. Its use of child actors alone could fill an entire essay about the ethics of making children perform at such a young age. But doing so requires me to spoil a truly rewarding experience. Even now, I fear that I’ve given away too much.
The Rehearsal is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. I implore you all to watch it as soon as you can. You may love it. You may despise it. Either way, it’s more than worthy of your time.