See why people are talking about ‘The Rehearsal’ on HBO

If you’re here, you’ve probably seen or seen something about The Rehearsal, a bizarre and ambitious new HBO series from comedian Nathan Fielder. Maybe you’ve come across tweets referencing the show or found the title while searching HBO Max catalog.

Fielder is also known for his Nathan for You show on Comedy Central, which saw him “think outside the box” to help small businesses succeed – his ideas range from selling alcohol to minors (but sticking to that until they complete 21) until the opening of a parody store called Dumb Starbucks. The series ran from 2013 to 2017.

In his latest show, which premiered July 15, Fielder “allows everyday people to prepare for life’s biggest moments by ‘rehearsing’ them in carefully crafted simulations of his own design,” according to the official synopsis of HBO.

Here’s a beginner’s guide to The Rehearsal, including what it is, why people are talking about it, and when you can tune in for the upcoming season finale.

What is the Essay about?

In The Rehearsal, Fielder plans ridiculous, over-the-top essays that allow people to experience moments in their lives before they happen. For example, in the first episode, he orchestrates a rehearsal for a middle-aged man named Kor, who is trying to confess a long-held secret to a friend.

How extreme of an essay are we talking? Well, Kor’s training rounds involve where he plans to meet his bar trivia friend – a Brooklyn bar called the Alligator Lounge. Fielder builds a “perfect replica” of the bar, right down to the exact spices on the bar’s spice racks. (A staff member told him that the fake establishment probably cost more to make than the real bar.) Kor rehearses his bomb drop with an actress – a doppelganger standing in for his friend. Later, the real meeting between the two friends unfolds on screen, and we eagerly watch to see if all that outrageous rehearsal was worth it.

The Essay doesn’t really adhere to that test-and-then-reality framework after that, however. It soon becomes more difficult to define, especially as Fielder begins to insert himself into rehearsals.

After the first four episodes, the show has an impressive score of 86 on CNET’s sister site Metacritic.

Is the rehearsal real or scripted?

Nathan Fielder on the set of The Rehearsal with two men seated in the foreground.

Fielder (center) is in the background.

HBO

Based on what we’ve seen so far, the answer is yes and no. The essay appears to include both contract actors and non-actors, drawn from places like Craigslist, who are interested in participating in Fielder’s experiment. In the first episode, Fielder says in a voiceover that Kor had responded to a Craigslist post. Alternatively, he calls the person playing the fake version of Kor’s bar trivia friend an actress. Basically, there’s a distinction made somehow between actors and people who are rehearsing moments in their lives.

Here’s another example. In Episode 3, Fielder refers to a man named Patrick (for those who’ve seen the show, he’s the Raising Canes guy) as “this guy I used to know”. Patrick wants to have a conversation with his brother about his grandfather’s will, and Fielder gets Patrick to practice with an actor who is replacing his brother.

That said, we haven’t seen the final episodes yet. Some people have theorized that the whole show could be a rehearsal and that those we think aren’t actors are actually actors.

“Does anyone think there’s a chance we can get to the end of rehearsal and Nathan explains that the whole show was fake all along?” a twitter user wrote.

Why are people talking about the show?

There are many reasons why you may have heard about The Rehearsal recently. Fans are praising the show for being highly original, surprising and completely crazy. It lends itself to theories, such as the one mentioned above, and laughable memes. He also put some provocative people in the spotlight.

However, the show and Fielder also drew criticism for their treatment of participants.

“The look of superiority and dominance (Fielder) cast on Kor struck me as arrogant, cruel and, above all, indifferent,” wrote critic Richard Brody of his experience watching the show’s first episode in his New Yorker article The Cruel and Arrogant Gaze from ‘The Essay’ by Nathan Fielder. Still, other critics called The Rehearsal “wonderfully strange and fascinating”, brilliant and moving.

How many episodes will there be?

There are six episodes of The Rehearsal in total. The first episode aired on July 15. Five have fallen so far.

When is the next rehearsal?

The show’s sixth episode airs on HBO on Friday, August 19 at 11 pm ET/PT. It is available on HBO Max at 11pm ET/8pm PT.

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