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Okay, How Real is ‘The Rehearsal,’ Actually?

Something, something, all the world’s a stage.
The Rehearsal
By  · Published on October 14th, 2022

Welcome to The Queue — your daily distraction of curated video content sourced from across the web. Today, we’re watching a video essay that looks at the hyper-reality of Nathan Fielder’s docu-series The Rehearsal.

Nathan Fielder has made a career out of blurring the line between reality and fiction. So it makes sense that the Canadian comedian would tackle a genre that largely lives in the same hyper-real space: reality television.

In his follow-up to Nathan for You, which enjoyed its last season in 2017, Fielder constructed a veritable house of mirrors. The premise of The Rehearsal is ostensibly simple: Fielder facilitates “rehearsals” for ordinary people who want to practice difficult conversations and life events. Employing the use of hilariously detailed sets and lookalike actors, these rehearsals include a brother speaking to his sibling about their late grandfather’s will to a man confessing to his bar trivia team that he doesn’t have a Master’s degree.

The question of how real this all is is integral not only to our experience as audience members but to Fielder’s experience as an artist. When Fielder joins a participant considering motherhood as a co-parent, the lines become blurry when the simulation threatens reality for the “actor” playing the “couple’s” son.

Because we live, uh, when we do, notions of para-social performance and “faking it till you make it” are an integral part of our everyday lives. And as the video essay below unpacks, for all his fakery, Fielder’s ultimate goal is to make us think, question, and poke holes in the performances. When you’re a contestant, you’re never supposed to question the premise of reality television. And Fielder, in all his chaos, poses many questions about where reality and rehearsal start and stop.

Watch “How Real is ‘The Rehearsal’?”:

Who made this?

This video essay on the reality of Nathan Fielder’s The Rehearsal is by Virginia-based filmmaker and video editor Thomas Flight. He runs a YouTube channel under the same name. You can follow Thomas Flight and check out his back catalog of video essays on YouTube here. You can follow him on Twitter here.

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Meg Shields is the humble farm boy of your dreams and a senior contributor at Film School Rejects. She currently runs three columns at FSR: The Queue, How'd They Do That?, and Horrorscope. She is also a curator for One Perfect Shot and a freelance writer for hire. Meg can be found screaming about John Boorman's 'Excalibur' on Twitter here: @TheWorstNun. (She/Her).