Exploring Digital Purgatory: Nathan for You


The Movie or TV Show: Nathan for You (All four seasons)

One Sentence Premise Summary: Nathan Fielder is an entitled mediocre white guy who thinks he can help small businesses but is really an awkward, sad man.

Where You Can Stream It: Hulu, HBO Max, and Paramount Plus (As of July 21, 2021)

Why I Streamed It: How to with John Wilson is a 2020 show I really liked and Nathan Fielder was an executive producer. I remember a lot of buzz around the finale but had never watched the show. Some extra time in the summer (and each season being eight episodes at 22 minutes) made for an easy binge.

Why You Should Stream This:

This is an extraordinary piece of television. I could honestly do this write-up just on the finale show, but I want you all to go in unspoiled because it is both funny and incredibly sad. In so many ways, this show represents so many modern comedies. On the surface, this is cringe awkwardness. Below, you find a host who seemingly can’t make friends, and his art is consuming him to the point where he prioritizes it over relationships. Thematically, this reminded me of Review (a criminally underrated Comedy Central show that would also be an excellent candidate for this column), but this show explores a lot more territory and features a wide ranging of characters.

There are some recurring bits and characters. Some come across as clueless jackasses who are seemingly earning being mocked on this show such as Bill Wolfe. He’s a private eye who consistently makes fun of Nathan. Admittedly, Nathan gets mocked and turned down by people for solid reasons. Bill is just such a raging asshole that Nathan can’t help but come across as the lesser of two evils. Other folks come across as sad, like the Bill Gates impersonator we see in a number of episodes. Whether intentional or not , the most self-aware person is a young woman named Maci (appears in the finale…again, won’t say anything more).

For a show that purports to be a combination of scripted comedy and some reality, it does tell us something about Nathan Fielder and his life as an artist. How far are we willing to go for our art, and is it possible to find happiness within such an artificial construct.

Speaking of artificial constructs, I want to highlight and spoil the premise of a couple of favorite episodes. One involves Nathan going a long way to be able to tell a true story on a talk show. This episode shows how canned these celebrity interviews can be and why late night in its current form should probably be abolished. There is an episode where Nathan attempts to save a gas station early in the show’s run which hints at some of the real heart the show can have when it wants to “The Claw of Shame” does a solid job poking fun at magic specials. He also spends a couple of episodes trying to help some cabbies fight Uber (a depressing payoff). My favorite episode besides the finale might be where Nathan helps an electronic store against Best Buy and the realization he comes to about himself.

Quite honestly, my only regret is not watching this show sooner. I have a hard time with cringe comedy, but Nathan for You is incredibly engaging and the editors are the real MVPs in many cases.

Best Performance: The Bill Gates impersonator and Maci. Again, watch the finale if you watch no other episode.

Best Quote: “In my quest to bring down Best Buy, I was becoming…. the Worst Guy.” -Nathan Fielder

Final Grade: A

Coming next week, Fear Street!  

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