Title: UnREAL Season 1
Starring: Shiri Appleby, Constance Zimmer, Craig Bierko
The few times I watch Lifetime, which is around Project Runway season, I didn't hear too much about this show and when I did, nothing obviously clicked in my head to check it out. It wasn't until a very good friend recommended it to me that I decided to check it out.
Reality TV producer Rachel Goldberg returns to the new season of "Everlasting", a popular dating show, after an epic meltdown the season before. With a reputation to rebuild and the show's demanding executive producer Quinn King breathing down her neck, Rachel must pull out all the stops in what she does best: manipulating the contestants to create the outrageous drama the viewers of "Everlasting" expect. [source: Wikipedia]
One sick day, I decided to browse through On Demand on my TV and marathoned 6 episodes of the show and I found myself hooked to this crazy trainwreck. The show really appeals to my old love of romantic competition shows as well as my interest in filmmaking. Every now and then, I would have flashbacks of being on set during my TV production class, but also reminded me how much I enjoyed old VH1 and MTV love competition shows such as Flavor of Love, I Love New York, Rock of Love, etc. It was interesting putting the actions of this show in context with what happened in the shows I watched as well as things I experienced in my production class. Before I move onto my opinion on the show, I'll quickly explain what "Everlasting" is. "Everlasting" is a dating reality show similar to the The Bachelor. They take a handsome, rich or well-established bachelor and several eligible bachelorettes in a huge mansion in search of love. Ultimately, the bachelor will decide which lucky lady will be his bride. In the case of Adam Cromwell, this season's bachelor, it's an opportunity to clean up his image of being promiscuous and wild. Now, let's get into the details of this first season!
UnREAL, from a filmmaker point of view, does an amazing job of handling two storylines: the "Everlasting" storyline with the bachelor Adam and the contestants and the storyline with the crew of the show. I can't imagine how anyone would be able to put together and film a show about making a show. It sounds really complicated and I admire that ambition that the creators have comprised. The story is very well paced and it never feels like things are dragging along because of the drama. For those who enjoy more serious romantic reality drama, whether it's The Bachelor (which I've never seen a single episode of) or the trashy romantic reality like Flavor of Love, then you'll enjoy how the show unfolds as there is a nice balance of both types of drama in "Everlasting" and the actual show.
Next, I want to talk about the characters. Starting with the cast involved in our reality show, we get about as much of an opportunity to learn about these women as well as Adam as you would watching an actual dating competition show. They have their confessional moments, one-on-one time with Adam, activities with the other women, and some interactions with the crew. Each contestant has their own developmental process, whether it's naturally progressing to true romance and drama or it is cleverly manipulated by someone in the crew. I was slightly guilty for having my own favorites like a real reality show on which contestant I wanted Adam to choose, which means this element was crafted very well. Then we have the characters part of the crew, which have as much drama to have their own reality show. Chet, the creator of "Everlasting", is a drug addict and is currently involved in an affair with Quinn, the show's executive producer; Quinn struggles with ethics and her relationship with Chet and tries to put most of her focus on being in charge of her own show or just boost the ratings of "Everlasting"; and our shining star of the show Rachel struggles to rebuild her reputation as a producer while trying to figure out her own romantic affairs at the same time. Because the show offers so many different situations and obstacles for all these characters, there's never a dull moment in the story and somehow it doesn't clutter up the progress of the dual storylines either. It also manages to make all these flawed individuals both unlikeable (to some extent, depending on the character) and sympathetic (also depending on the character). No one is really all that innocent when it comes to the reality TV industry and Rachel and Quinn face some difficult choices.
For all those who enjoyed the likes of The Bachelor and/or those questionable dating competition shows you've seen on VH1, then you'll enjoy this show of un-reality in reality. The characters are entertaining and provide plenty of drama and emotions and the story is very well paced and shot. It's also very addicting. I'm very surprised and impressed by this show. Good job, Lifetime! Fortunately, UnREAL has been renewed for another 10 episode season, which will premiere in 2016.