One of the many confusing pleasures in The Rehearsal, the social experiment/docu-reality series by comedian Nathan Felder HBOis the number of times the program reveals its delusions.
The series’ central concept is clear enough, albeit usually silly: What if you could rehearse pre-charged conversations or situations? How much control can you control if you have all the resources available to prepare? The show depicts both the boring constructions of facsimile—building a symmetrical bar, hiring actors, and stress-testing potential conversations—and troubling, sometimes sublime commentary for disbelief.
With The Rehearsal and his previous show, Comedy Central cult has been a huge success Nathan for you, Felder painted laughs (or indirect embarrassment, or horror) as the ultimate adherent of slightly militant ideas beyond meaning, with such rigid absurdity that you cannot distinguish the absurd from the dangerous. Over the course of four seasons, “Nathan For You” Felder has coached true small business owners with daring, petty plans (Prepare a huge tip for celebrities At a free press dinner, with a realtor renamed “100% ghost free”And the “Dumb Starbucks”) offered a decent test of tolerance for confusion. The typical Nathan For You viewing experience was a mixture of awe at the stately stupidity of the scheme, amusement at how far Fielder would go, and genuine interest in companies.
Training takes Fielder’s commitment and viewer fear to new heights. It takes a knowingly wrong idea – that one can control one’s emotions, or life – and it multiplies over and over until that idea sounds like a deranged genius. There are the basic building blocks of reality TV – participants are exposed and kept away, assuming everything is semi-real, semi-script, and crisp editing. (Fielder is an excellent Executive Producer for Editor How HBO Works With John Wilsonwhich turns a mundane city life into a glorious fantasy.) Watching The Rehearsal feels like it’s reaching the outer fringes of reality TV—you’re not quite sure what you’re doing, you doubt moving on, and you can’t stop looking.
In the first episode, Fielder helps business trivia enthusiasts uncover a low-quality, years-long lie to a friend with factual accuracy, including Replica working on a large scale From Crocodile Lounge in Brooklyn. As all of Felder’s plots do, episode two, which aired last Friday, ramps up the stakes: Felder reveals a two-month simulation of Angela, a born-again Christian in her 40s who has postponed having children, to a maternity test. We see the complexity of Truman Show-esque designing the Felder Collection – in accordance with Angela’s wishes, she lives on an Oregon farm with a garden, and is trained to adopt her son “Adam” from a real agency, handed over by his real mother. (Fielder also has a replica of the Alligator Lounge moved to a warehouse in Oregon—a big part of the show’s entertainment is simply marveling at the amount of money he got from HBO.)
We also see, sometimes simultaneously, the mysterious scaffolding required to sustain this disbelief. Blurring the line between TV producer personality, Nathan For You’s socially awkward attitude and rock face, Felder edits the adoption scene in real time and asks the real mom to explain why she’s “unfit” to be a parent. Big Brother cameras film Angela and a crew of child actors – all playing Adam – at home, broadcast to a control panel at nearby production headquarters. A giant timer on the living room wall counts down the four-hour shifts for underage actors, as required by law. The staff surreptitiously switches car seats when Angela isn’t looking, or crawls through the window to get a motorized crying doll into the crib on the night shift. (It’s annoying and annoying to see young children taking part in a production they can’t understand, pretending Angela is their mother; it’s also indistinguishable from the work of a child actor on any other show, nor can it be said as charged as, say, a kid’s Instagram account Created by adults.)
For viewers, there is little distinction between on-stage and off-stage, yet it is concerning, and no less remarkable, how quickly you take The Rehearsal’s bizarre terminology for granted. This is true even as the terminology shifts before us according to Fielder’s stern vision and heightened ego, herself extracted and primed for television. If, as Megan Garber argued in The Atlantic, the Paranoid style in American reality TV Post-Survivor taught us to assume the remarkable strength and complete knowledge of off-screen producers, the rehearsal heightens the visibility of the machinations. Product skews plot. When Felder, who joins Angela’s simulation as a platonic co-parent, feels trapped by the rules he’s set for his own project, he changes them.
The second episode of the rehearsal, in which Felder outlined his plan for Angela, was renewed Criticism of Felder’s work manipulative or intermediate. It is fair to say that Angela’s devout faith comes across as eccentric, and her participation in this project is illusory; Since then, a potential simulation partner told her Contrasted with his portrayal In the show, where he smokes weed, drives and focuses on the spiritual numbers. But dismissing the episode as a manipulation seems like a misreading of The Rehearsal, which constantly flaunts its own claims and places Felder’s unfettered social anxiety as the back of the joke. Of course it’s manipulation—the discomfort of portraying a person, his perceived fairness or injustice, is a basic tenet and landmine of television making about real people who more or less appear to be themselves.
All reality shows contain some dance between choreography and viewable chaos, between censored variables and the editing power, of a product that assumes the exact location of the summary, or at least better organization. No one, not even Sunset Sale Camp creations, Survivor racers, BELOW Deck workers, or Love Island castaways, controls their mods. We all perform all the time, without having a final say in our perception; Participants actually do it to a high degree, with a near-universal record.
Television’s ultimate victim, to the extent that there is one, of this concept is Felder himself. Over the course of the season, he grows trapped by the boundaries and loopholes of his own experience, which continue to evade his grasp, especially as a fake parent becomes manipulative about work and life — in other words, taking care of the children on the show and making a show. It is understood that Angela has her own visions for the project and acts accordingly. Ghosts a separate co-production without explanation, although you can infer that it is related to emotions over deception which, in my opinion, hits a moral line. (The exercise includes his previous snapshots.) In subsequent episodes, Felder’s attempts to control variables of cognition escalate into an addictive addictive-inverted copycat Russian doll.
Another heart is Dark Forest, but Felder seems determined to try to draw it anyway. The Rehearsal is at its core very curious about why this is so – why we act the ways we do, how irrationally we act, the lengths we will go to avoid weakness, and how much we will watch others try. To truly see people, their neuroses, contradictions, and arrogance are messy. Knowing that it is being filmed for public consumption is baffling. For that to be meticulously edited, and released through HBO for the absolute budget? This is good TV, a reality show in which extreme means get the real thing.