UnREAL: A New Favorite Unreality TV Show – Review

Appleby and Zimmer with the next bachelor

Very rarely do I get so excited that the urge to gush in first person becomes irresistible. The last time was with “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” and the first time was with Vince Gilligan’s “Breaking Bad.” UnREAL is not either of these, it falls somewhere in-between the comic genius of Tina Fey and the drama of Gilligan.  The show is a new favorite; UnREAL, this unreality TV show about the goings on behind a “The Bachelor” type of series.

Catching the season two premiere “War” the “behind the scenes” of a pretend dating show   lit a fire that could not be quenched until the entire first season was binged.  The two strong female characters, played by the force that is Constance Zimmer and Shiri Appleby, along with a nice subtle performance by Genevieve Buechner and Craig Bierko returning to wrest his baby back from Quinn (Zimmer) makes the second season compulsive viewing. 

Season one had a Brit contestant and some big names as guest stars. Johanna Braddy and  Arielle Kebbel were contestants and the first time up to bat “UnREAL” kicked arse and took names.

The show is the brainchild of Sarah Gertrude Shapiro (the real life version of Appleby’s character Rachel Goldberg) and Marti Noxon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer,Girlfriends Guide to Divorce) and  it is a vitriolic and cold hearted look at what goes on behind the scenes of real dating shows. “UnREAL”  is a massive hit for Lifetime network. 

Shapiro who actually worked on the reality dating show “The Bachelor” many moons ago suffered personally for her “art” and wound up begging to leave as producer after nine seasons.  Regardless of the amount of truth or exaggeration about the way these shows work (in many ways the mechanizations that the producers work daily in “UnREAL” feels much more like “Big Brother” scenario than “The Bachelor”) it is all too easy to feel like there is a huge germ of truth here.

Make no mistake, these are not nice people.  Quinn (Zimmer) and Goldberg (Appleby)  are out for ratings and manipulate, lie and bully to get the contestants to act up for the cameras and this makes for hugely addictive viewing for their audiences.

If nothing else “UnREAL” unveils the fallacy of reality television with its fictional portrayal of the behind the scenes orchestrations of dating shows. All “reality” TV is scripted, manipulated and forced to follow a direction.  In “UnREAL,” the producers of the faux dating program “Everlasting” use a whiteboard, backstories and pictures of the contestants to place them in categories; Villain, crazy girl, etc. They are then pushed and prodded to fit their characters.

For someone who loathes reality television with a passion “UnREAL”  allows the cynical side of me to believe that things really are that fake and forced. (Which they are. Don’t believe it? Pay attention the next time “America’s Got Talent” is on and watch the little vignettes designed to tug your heartstrings.)

Last season in “UnREAL” the eligible bachelor was a not-so rich Brit businessman who was trying to turn his fortunes around and this season it is the first black  bachelor.  Season two  is also about Chet (Bierko) trying to gain back control of “Everlasting.”

The chemistry of the characters is spot on and Zimmer as Quinn is a force to be reckoned with, as is Appleby as Goldberg.

“UnREAL” airs Mondays on Lifetime and this runaway hit is worth watching. Tune in and get caught up in the drama “behind the scenes.” Binging is highly recommended if, like me, you missed the first season.  (Missed, I might add, because I was under the mistaken impression is was indeed a reality television show.)