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‘Nathan For You’ and the Sacha Baron Cohen Dilemma

By Jac Kern · July 2nd, 2014 · Television
nathan fielder_ianwhiteNathan Fielder - Ian White

Prank shows are nothing new. Candid Camera spanned seven decades, Punk’d targeted celebs and now even Betty White has a prank show for old people called Off Their Rockers. Nathan For You (10:30 p.m. Tuesdays, Comedy Central) is pegged as a prank show or parody of the dime-a-dozen business-rescue programs on today, but it’s actually much more. Aside from offering terrible advice to local businesses — to comedic results — Nathan Fielder offers sometimes-silly, often-hilarious commentary on so many facets of contemporary American culture, keeping perfect deadpan all the while.

Season One debuted quietly in 2013 — few Americans were familiar with the Canadian comic, so he flew under the radar for the most part. But as his “pranks” gain more attention, there is concern that the added attention could inhibit the gag.

Case in point: It seems “Dumb Starbucks” will be the “Pig Saves Goat” of Season Two. Like last year’s fabricated animal video that got mainstream viral attention before the show even premiered, Fielder made headlines earlier this year after opening a “Dumb Starbucks” that borrowed the coffee conglomerate’s name and logo under “parody laws.” Only this time, more people knew this would be part of the show. That episode airs July 29.

The show’s (and Fielder’s) rising popularity could be its Achilles’ heel — Fielder’s stunts will grow less effective as his notoriety grows. Sacha Baron Cohen will never be able to top his material from Da Ali G Show now that Borat is a household name. So it will be interesting to see how or if Fielder evolves his style — if he’s able to remove himself while still orchestrating parodies (like his funny Twitter prompts — follow @nathanfielder), he might be able to keep this going.

This week, Nathan arranges a fake movie shoot and later worries he committed fraud.


Brew Dogs (9 p.m., Esquire) – Hosts James and Martin head to the St.

Patrick’s Day capital of the world — no, not Ireland; Chicago! — to concoct the greenest beer of all time.

Wilfred (10 p.m., FXX) – Ryan and Wilfred take sides during Kristen’s custody battle.


The Walking Dead: Dead, White & Blue Weekend (9 a.m. Friday-9 p.m. Sunday, AMC) – Since nothing says, “America,” quite like zombies, AMC is airing every episode of the series this weekend. The marathon culminates with a Talking Dead preview special for Season Five — premiering this October — Sunday at 9 p.m., with showrunner Scott M. Gimple and random guest Aisha Tyler.

Macy’s 4th of July Fireworks Spectacular (8 p.m., NBC) – Enjoy this outdoor holiday tradition from the comfort of your couch. Featuring performances by Lionel Richie, Miranda Lambert, Enrique Iglesias, Ariana Grande and more.


True Blood (9 p.m., HBO) – Not Eric! Pam finally tracks down our favorite Viking vamp (after a tease in the form of an Eric-Jason sex dream — more of that, please), only to find him in dire straits. Elsewhere, the Fangtasia prisoners try to use witchcraft to escape; Sookie’s group has a run-in with the Bon Temps vigilantes; and Sarah Newlin returns!

Halt and Catch Fire (10 p.m., AMC) -– Cameron takes over software and butts heads with Gordon. Hurricane Alicia (a real 1983 tropical cyclone) forces everyone to reevaluate their decisions.

The Leftovers (10 p.m., HBO) – Kevin sees a therapist to discuss his recent happenings; Meg faces the realities of joining the Guilty Remnant; Jill and Aimee believe Nora — the Mapleton woman who lost her entire family during the event — could be dangerous.


Dangerous Acts Starring the Unstable Elements of Belarus (9 p.m., HBO) – A group of award-winning actors in Belarus — a country bordered by Russia, Ukraine and Poland, where uncensored art is illegal — risk imprisonment, exile and death to perform and create provocative art.


Finding Carter (Series Premiere, 10 p.m., MTV) – The Face on the Milk Carton fable gets a contemporary makeover with this new drama about Carter, a teen who discovers the woman she believes to be her mother is actually her kidnapper. It could be watchable, but will surely lack that ’90s Lifetime movie je ne sais quoi.

Tyrant (10 p.m., FX) – Barry makes plans to stay in Abbudin indefinitely, and his family has mixed emotions. New evidence arises in the attack on Jamal, causing more uncertainty for Barry.

CONTACT JAC KERN: jkern@citybeat.com or @jackern



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