Here’s the thing: I think we all know that most reality TV shows aren’t real. Take it from someone who has watched everything from Marriage Boot Camp to Flavor Of Love. Though entertaining and addictive as hell, reality TV can be just as orchestrated as any TV drama cast with award-winning actors. That’s why Lifetime’s scripted drama UnREAL, which focuses its lens on the inner workings of a fictional looking-for-love, Bachelor-esque series called Everlasting, feels so incredibly familiar. It’s a show about a reality show on the surface, but after about five minutes you realize UnREAL exposes the darker side of Hollywood. And then you get sucked in…
Created by two women, Sarah Gertrude Shapiro and Marti Noxon, the show pushes another female tag team to the forefront through characters Quinn King (Constance Zimmer) and Rachel Goldberg (Shiri Appleby). While Zimmer plays the heartless, sharp-tongued executive producer and side-chick to Everlasting‘s creator Chet Wilton (Craig Bierko), Appleby portrays a conflicted producer still trying to hold onto her integrity and sanity in the ruthless field of television.
If you’re anything like me, you skipped Season 1 because Lifetime is typically where good ideas become poorly casted and acted biopics (R.I.P. Aaliyah). But once you give this overlooked gem an honest chance (a.k.a., an uninterrupted 10 hours of binge-watching), you’ll find yourself engulfed and flat-out sucked into the dark, immoral world that destroys these women who are just looking for 15 minutes of fame–and a husband.
Everybody’s playing God, creating scenarios to spark drama or to cause these women to quite literally break down. It’s an almost unrealistically dramatic show until you realize that reality shows most likely involve this type of immoral puppeteering. Though last season centered almost squarely on Rachel’s struggle to recover emotionally and professionally from an on-set meltdown, this season Rachel is on Quinn’s heels for the showrunner position. Not to mention, she selects the first black Everlasting suitor, NFL star Darius Hill (B.J. Britt). It’s a revolution of sorts in both this series and in real life since there still hasn’t been a black Bachelor. And despite the lack of cast members of color, this show doesn’t shy away from a candid and honest dialogue surrounding race. In fact, they face it head-on with a White woman wearing a Confederate flag bikini and a Black woman donning an “I Can’t Breathe” T-shirt during eliminations.
On UnREAL, there are no real winners. No one is on a moral high ground and no one is loyal, except for the doe-eyed contestants. And that’s only until they learn how to play to win. Think of a style of deviousness similar to House of Cards with a side of Bobby Axelrod’s (Billions) will to win by any means. It’s magnificent TV and quite frankly a show you’ll need in your summer lineup. And since Power airs on Sunday nights now, and because I’m sure you’ve already binge-watched Orange Is The New Black in one weekend, you’ll need something to feed your appetite for a bigger dose of underhanded power plays and cold-blooded b—hes. Look no further.
Catch UnREAL on Mondays at 9 p.m. ET on Lifetime.