In two years, Nathan Fielder has gone from a relatively unknown comedian with his own Comedy Central show to recognized as one of the most brilliant pranksters on television. He’s created viral videos and even an actual storefront parody of Starbucks without anyone knowing he was the mastermind behind the creations. In his first two seasons, he sold poo flavored frozen yogurt, allowed underage kids to buy liquor and created a reality show for the purposes of being less awkward around women. Much like Fielder’s business plans, there was a demand for a great new comedy show and Fielder supplied it with Nathan For You.
Thanks to Dumb Starbucks, Nathan For You became a phenomenon of sorts, so it’s understandable to believe that season three will have a bigger audience than the last. Because of that, “Electronics Store,” the season three premiere, sort of feels like a recap of Nathan For You’s style rather than a wholly original idea for the show. That’s not a bad thing actually, since the various elements Fielder has utilized in the past work incredibly well combined together in “Electronics Store,” but it does slightly feel like a primer for new Nath-heads.
“Electronics Store” takes Nathan to Alan Karikian of Speers TV, whose small electronics shop can’t compete with Best Buy. Since Best Buy has a price match policy, Nathan’s idea is to have Speers TV advertise $1 TVs, but make them incredibly difficult to purchase, while Nathan’s crew of shoppers buys up all of Best Buy’s TVs that are now technically $1 as well. And since Alan and Nathan aren’t in relationships, they can both work on this idea full time!
To purchase the $1 TVs from Speers TV, customers must adhere to the store’s new dress code policy that requires a full tuxedo. If they do come in formal attire—as some actually do—they then have to go through a tiny door, where all that stands between them and a $1 TV is a live alligator. Since Nathan For You is a docu-comedy, the customer’s reactions and Nathan’s determination to not budge on these rules is hilarious. However Nathan For You’s finest episode to date, season one’s “Gas Station/Caricature Artist” also did something similar, where customers were offered incredibly cheap gas, they just had to climb a mountain to deposit their rebate. While these two bits aren’t exactly the same, the bones of both are quite similar.
When Best Buy won’t price match the $1 TVs, Nathan decides to take the issue to court, since big companies like Best Buy and Enron don’t think the rules apply to them. This latter segment shows us what makes Nathan such a great character, by tricking and confusing the people on his side and most importantly, his never-ending search for love.
Nathan is a fascinating character in just how far he will go to make his ridiculous plans work. In order to make sure Best Buy won’t retaliate in court, Nathan takes Karikian to a therapist to get him on the record with a diagnosis of insanity. Before Karikian goes to see the therapist, Nathan tells the doctor that Karikian believes he works at an electronics store, implying that this is part of the psychosis. When Karikian explains the crazy tactics Nathan has used for his business, Karikian only sounds more insane.
Even crazier is when Nathan tries to find a whistleblower inside Best Buy to admit that Best Buy sometimes doesn’t accept price matches that people bring in. Once again, Nathan does it under the false pretenses of a dating show, complete with a private salsa lesson that actually makes the fake date seem like a fairly believable MTV dating show, if it wasn’t for the fact that we know that Nathan just wants to just go on an actual date.
While many of the elements of “Electronics Store” do come from previous episodes, they mesh so well together here. As always, the reactions are what truly make Nathan For You great. I mean, Nathan gets people to consider going against an alligator for an almost free TV, or gets some of his TV buyers to lie under oath in a practice court, when asking his witnesses if they’ve ever met a man that looks like Nathan before. Besides all the craziness and weird ideas, Nathan For You is actually able to find some heart in its wild ideas. Nathan’s delusions lead him to believe he’s breaking the hearts of the women he asked to be on his fake reality show and decides to introduce one of the women to Karikian and the two actually seem to hit it off.
Despite being a relatively insane show, Nathan’s character works because he truly cares about the businesses he’s trying to help and those he interacts with, for better or worse. He starts off trying to take on Best Buy, then becomes the Worst Guy, but in the end, he’s the Best Guy who continues to give it his Best Try. By truly wanting to help these businesses with his crazy ideas, Nathan finds a heart in this show that is as surprising as the reactions and actually ends up being touching at times. “Electronics Store” might not be the most original of Nathan For You’s ideas, but it is a fantastic reminder of every aspect that makes Nathan For You one of TV’s best comedies.
Ross Bonaime is a D.C.-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow him on Twitter.