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October 9, 2017 | by  | in TV |
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Nathan For You

With his show Nathan For You that began its fourth season in late September, Nathan Fielder is the hero we need but don’t quite deserve in television right now. Having graduated from business school in Canada with “really good grades,” Nathan’s goal is to help small business owners increase their profits through ingenious and out-of-the-box marketing ideas. Despite a seemingly simple premise, Nathan For You catches you off guard with just how elaborate the stunts are, and it is chaotic evil magic to watch.

Even if you haven’t heard of it, you might still have a peripheral awareness of Nathan For You due to its absurd schemes having a tendency to catch the attention of unaware mainstream news outlets. In 2014 the show made international headlines with “Dumb Starbucks”, a pop-up coffee shop meets art installation parodying Starbucks that was just legal through a copyright loophole, but which eventually shut down after three days for failing to meet health and safety codes. It was initially an attempt at rebranding a struggling small town café, but the café owner did not respond well to the idea of being blackmailed should Starbucks find a way to sue them. So Nathan set up Dumb Starbucks on his own.

The show had previously made news in its first season after staging a video of a “hero pig” rescuing a goat from drowning to promote a petting zoo — the video reached over 9,000,000 views on YouTube before it was revealed as a hoax to coincide with the episode’s premiere. Season four’s second episode employs a similar strategy, with a complex plan involving a celebrity impersonator and a legally binding name change in an attempt to stage a viral moment of “Michael Richards” (Seinfeld’s Kramer) leaving a $10,000 tip on a sandwich at a small deli.

Nathan For You is so delightfully uncomfortable that it somehow, despite all odds, becomes wholesome. Nathan’s perceived naivety allows people to open up to him, like a fucked up Louis Theroux. Over the seasons, Nathan has had a tense relationship with private investigator Brian Wolfe, with Wolfe dubbing Nathan “the Wizard of Loneliness” after a particularly bad blowup. But in the season four opener, the two find common ground admiring Wolfe’s former work as a soft-core erotica model, which Nathan brings bountiful evidence of in a thoroughly annotated binder. In another episode, Nathan changes a woman’s life when he suggests rebranding her realtor business as “The Ghost Realtor”, triggering a passion for the paranormal that persists to this day and has reinvigorated her professional life.

With all the shows coming back in the next month (Stranger Things, Mr Robot, Curb Your Enthusiasm) I feel spoiled for choice, but Nathan for You is what I consistently look forward to each year. It is somehow the smartest and stupidest thing I have ever seen. I cannot begin to explain the joy I feel watching Nathan Fielder do things like force strangers to go on a two-day hike to save $15 on gas, or extort hours of free work by presenting manual labour as an exercise fad, or set up an entire recreation of The Bachelor starring himself to get over his fear of intimacy. It’s kind of hard to explain without doing that awful thing where you try explain a comedian telling a funny joke and ruin it completely, and maybe I’ve already done that, so take your time now to catch up on the best show you haven’t heard of.

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