“The Bachelor” plus “The Bachelorette” series is currently on its umpteenth season (even the internet has not been able to keep track how many seasons there have been combined) with a new twist— there are now two-count ‘em-two bachelorettes. After 13 years of being on the air, Lifetime has premiered a new series by the name of “UnReal,” which premiered on June 1. “UnReal” is a fictional show that aims at giving the behind the scenes look at dating competition shows like “The Bachelor.” Now, how do we know this show isn’t just mudslinging critiques to one of the longest-running reality TV shows of the 21st century? Co-creator of “UnReal” Sarah Gertrude Shapiro worked on the set of “The Bachelor” for three years, and while that doesn’t seem like much, clearly it was enough for her to base an entire show off the experience. The cast of “UnReal” features a production crew for a dating competition show called “Everlasting.”
Review by Marisa Martinez
“UnReal” reveals the copious amount of pre-production and staged moments that go into dating competition shows to “make good TV” and just how, for lack of a better word, “unreal” shows like “The Bachelor” truly can be. From hand picked cougars and virgins, to production assistants talking to contestants and exposing their deepest and darkest secrets to get a reaction out of participants for the cameras. If there’s anything we can learn from the first episode of “UnReal” it’s that every “one-on-one,” every meltdown and every cat fight can all be staged perfectly to boost ratings.
Teamwork makes the dream work
Now, how can one TV show manipulate the close personal lives of 25 girls and be able to keep tabs on their emotions and change them at a moment’s notice? The structure of the “Everlasting” production crew is what allows for the extreme control. Each production assistant is in charge of recruiting about five or six of the show’s contestants. These production assistants travel to the ladies’ hometowns, befriend them and find out everything there is to know about each of the women. Each production assistant remains in charge of the girls they convinced to sign the contract for the duration of the show. They are responsible for stepping on set if one of their girls is not co-operating or if the executive producer needs one of their contestants to start crying or say something that they can use in a promo.
In the first episode we are introduced to one of the main characters of the show, Rachel, a production assistant who has returned for the next season of “Everlasting” after having an on-air meltdown during the live finale of the previous season. Although she is seeing a therapist and still completing her community service for the two misdemeanors she committed on live TV during her meltdown, the executive producer, Quinn still takes her back because she is “the best” at handling the contestants and talking them into saying what needs to be said for the cameras. This is where the main plot and character focus lies: the personal lives of the crew. Rachel must also deal with working on a show she does not agree with morally, while being sued by “Everlasting” for the damages done in the finale episode, and as well working with her ex and his current fiancée.
“UnReal” manages to unmask the way popular reality TV is actually staged, while at the same time providing that same amount of drama you would find in an episode of “The Bachelor” in the “real” lives of the production crew that works behind the scenes. A comfortable balance between the real and unreal, “UnReal” is a show that gives a new perspective on reality TV, I give it three stars. It’s not “Scandal,” but it’s intriguing enough that I want to continue watching purely for the new perspective it provides that I would otherwise never know. What sets this show apart from being a fictional version of “The Bachelor?” Simple – the drama that keeps the show interesting is not that of the women in the competition, but the people making the show.
“UnReal” airs every Monday at 9pm after “Devious Maids” on the Lifetime Network.