In the Watch This Next column, Man of Many takes a look back at a great TV show or film that may have slipped under your radar. Given the near-limitless entertainment options in the Netflix era, it’s easy to overlook amazing content in favour of the latest hit. For every Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad or Stranger Things, there’s another thing equally worthy of attention and we make the case for why you should watch it and where you can find it.
“I always do a weak handshake upfront to establish that I’m not a threat” – Nathan Fielder, ‘Nathan For You’
In a consumerist age dominated by self-styled marketing gurus, makeover shows and self-help books, Comedy Central’s ‘Nathan For You’ is a sharply-observed panacea that excels as a parody of similarly-themed reality TV shows and a comedy in its own right.
It follows the exploits of Nathan Fielder who, in his own words, qualified from ‘one of Canada’s top business schools with really good grades’ as he uses his questionable business acumen to help struggling local businesses. Fielder plays a skewed version of himself, burdened with excessive gawkiness and social anxiety, who must convince the unsuspecting business owners to go along with his outrageous schemes.
Whether it’s convincing a yogurt shop to sell a ‘poo’-flavoured product or boosting sales at a souvenir shop by pretending it’s the set for a major Hollywood film, Fielder’s business ideas are suitably unconventional and much of the show’s comedic charm comes from watching the well-intentioned business owners go along with the plan, despite their understandable reservations.
Created by Fielder and Michael Korman, ‘Nathan For You’ is frequently hilarious and always cringeworthy, thanks mainly to Fielder’s brand of knowing social awkwardness. Yet it’s also peppered with moments of clever physical comedy and running gags, and Fielder is a master at extracting the humour from what would otherwise be highly-uncomfortable interactions.
Despite the patently ridiculous nature of most of Fielder’s business ideas, ‘Nathan For You’ has repeatedly gained coverage from the international media after a number of the show’s stunts went viral before the episodes themselves aired. A parody coffee shop named ‘Dumb Starbucks’ made for the show hit the news before it was revealed as a hoax, as did a staged video that saw a pig save a drowning goat, which racked up almost 10 million Youtube views. As such, the show also works as somewhat of a meta-commentary on modern media and the easily manipulated nature of viral video culture.
‘Nathan For You’ has received critical acclaim and has recently been commissioned for a fourth season. Whilst a show about the misadventures of a socially-awkward business advisor seems as likely to succeed as any of Fielder’s outlandish in-show plans, ‘Nathan For You’ offers more than enough to avoid becoming the repetitive, one-note comedy it may suggest. Fielder is a uniquely-watchable character and a refreshing, irreverent alternative to the vapid talking heads that populate most reality TV.
Seasons 1 and 2 of ‘Nathan For You’ are available on Stan and all three seasons are available on iTunes.