There are many factors that can make a show binge-worthy, but a short running time and the ability to keep on entertaining and surprising viewers are two of the most appealing qualities. At 16 hours, Nathan for You can be watched in a single day if you’re that dedicated, and the hilarity and unexpected scenarios within each episode makes for some mightily entertaining and addictive viewing.
The show follows Nathan Fielder, a socially awkward “business expert”, as he comes up with unique ideas to help small businesses that are struggling. However, Nathan’s methods for changing their fortunes are offbeat and risky, to say the least, which is where most of the show’s hilarity stems from.
But just how weird are his ideas?
In one episode, he convinces a store to introduce a poo-flavored ice cream. In another, he garners exposure for a petting zoo by producing a video of a pig saving a goat. In one of the most entertaining episodes, he convinces a private investigator to hunt him down in exchange for a positive Google review. My personal favorite, however, involves him convincing a realtor to only sell ghost-free homes. Nathan’s methods are strange, and that’s what makes the show so addictive.
All of these scenarios would still be funny if Nathan for You was a work of fiction, but what you see taking place on the screen is all real. Although Nathan Fielder is playing a character, the business owners and people he encounters are not aware of this at the time. What’s even more surprising is that they’re all willing to give his bizarre ideas a chance because he’s surprisingly convincing and self-assured.
There’s something about entertainment involving real people that’s fascinating to watch, especially when it’s cringe-worthy and embarrassing for them. There’s a reason why prank videos go viral and why people are drawn to reality shows where willing participants degrade themselves for fame and fortune. Human nature is drawn toward a good trainwreck.
Seeing small business owners willing to go along with Nathan’s crazy schemes gives the show its own kind of car crash thrill, as desperate businesses take big risks in an effort to reap some rewards. But Nathan for You is also really smart, not only because of how intricate and inventive each scheme is, but also in the way it skewers capitalism, society, and the extreme lengths people are willing to go to for the purpose of promoting their brand.
A prime example of an episode which exposes just how ridiculous people can be is “Gas Station.” In order to help a struggling gas station, Nathan suggests that they offer rebates to customers, provided that said customers agree to some unappealing terms and conditions. To claim the rebate, they must go mountain climbing and solve some riddles, which Nathan assumes they won’t have the time for. However, people do show up, and they’re willing to stay overnight and jump through hoops just so save a few bucks on gas.
While all of this deception and tomfoolery makes Nathan for You seem like a mean show in theory, it’s actually quite heartwarming at times. Seeing people fall for ridiculous schemes is entertaining and quite embarrassing for them, sure, but within these ploys, Nathan strives to help the businesses in question.
While he does push things such as legality and ethics to the absolute limit at times, some of the businesses do experience a boost. The petting zoo stunt brought a lot of attention to the business, while the “Dumb Starbucks” episode is a masterclass in how to profit from parody. The only difference between Natan for You and other shows about helping businesses is that the host and his methods in this instance are comedic and weird.
The show also benefits from having such a perfect host, who never ceases to be compelling due to how well he plays his part. Every interaction he has with people is deliberately awkward and uncomfortable, and you want to keep tuning in to see how different folks will respond to him. In some cases, though, he encounters real-life people who are just as absurd as the character he’s playing. Nathan for You explores the stranger side of the American business world and spends some time with the unique people who inhabit it.
No episode of Nathan for You is the same as the last. Perhaps the most impressive thing about the show is how it always manages to come up with fresh concepts without ever suffering in quality. This is comedy at its finest, and the only complaint I have to make about it is that there aren’t more seasons to devour in a single sitting.