Nathan for You: Season 3 created by Nathan Fielder and Michael Koman (Abso Lutely Productions, Blow Out Productions)
Starring Nathan Fielder.
We experience humor subjectively. The line of dialogue or aesthetic experience that produces whimsy in one person might cause a blank stare in another. Some laugh at physical comedy and others laugh at puns. Some laugh at the Big Bang Theory and others chuckle at The Office. So when a critic approaches reviewing a comedy, the humorous aspect often drops away. What else can you say than, “It’s funny?”
For me, Nathan for You represents the pinnacle of humorous television. I laugh constantly during its run time. But I also recognize that my humor differs from almost everyone.
The Strategic Aim
So, let’s approach Nathan from You from a deeper level. Any comedy offers a strategic aim. The source of its jokes operates around a core purpose. Some comedies make light of family dynamics and others of the workplace. Nathan for You targets the agreeableness of American culture and the willingness to do just about anything to be on camera.
The premise behind Nathan for You operates alongside many of the cable reality series focused on life improvement. In this show, Nathan Fielder (Nathan Fielder) meets with failing businesses and uses his professional expertise (he got really good grades at business school) to help these businesses make money.
At its most basic level, this synopsis could operate well on almost any network. Nathan, however, leverages the desires of these small business owners to be on television, in addition to the niceties of culture to not push back in order to create absurd scenarios.
As an example, Nathan attempts to help a small television shop in its constant combat against Best Buy, its corporate overlord. The plan? Create an advertisement offering plasma televisions for $1 and then hire secret shoppers to take the advertisement to local Best Buys in an attempt to force the corporation to follow through on its price match policy. In this way, the small business can buy televisions cheaply, reselling them at a profit.
Yet, to close the loop, the business also needs to make the actual $1 televisions in the store difficult to obtain. For this part, Nathan suggests mandatory formal wear in the store and the placement of the televisions behind a 1-foot door with an alligator on guard.
Episode by episode, these business owners and consumers play by Nathan’s crazy rules all for the 15 seconds of fame, even if they think it’s stupid.
Blending Real and Fake
Aside from the ideas themselves, Nathan for You brilliantly balances “fake” and “real.” Over the course of the season, a handful of actual items from the show have entered the marketplace. For example, there’s an Amazon best seller. It’s a self-help book from a fitness guru who “lost a lot of weight by moving boxes” in an elaborate scheme to help a moving company get fitness-minded people to pay the company to move houses. Or, a winter coat called Summit Ice is available; it hopes to educate you on the horrors of the holocaust.
Much like predecessors like Sacha Baron Cohen and Tom Green, Nathan Fielder blends reality with the real world. But, Nathan Fielder also blends performance art and satire, similar to the “Stephen Colbert” Stephen Colbert played on the Colbert Report.
Nathan for You offers stand-alone episodes so you can jump on and jump off as you wish, although I would recommend watching all seasons. If you want to get a good idea of what the show is all about, try “Smoker’s Allowed” from this season. Recommended.
Verdict: 5 out of 5