TV Review - Unreal

Shiri Appleby (left) and Josh Kelly in 'UnREAL'
Shiri Appleby (Roswell and ER) stars as Rachel Goldberg, a TV producer on a dating and reality show called "Everlasting," which is a version of ABC's The Bachelor. Written by Marti Noxon and Sarah Gertrude Shapiro, this show is a cynical look at what goes on behind-the-scenes of a program like The Bachelor. Rachel, for example, is very manipulative and will lie to people in order to get them to behave the way she wants on camera for what will get good ratings.

Constance Zimmer (House of Cards and Grey's Anatomy) co-stars as Quinn, the show-runner and executive producer who is Rachel's boss. She is the queen of manipulation. Actually, she doesn't do much of the groundwork. She instead barks orders from the control room where she monitors all the cameras and the footage. On the Firewall & Iceberg podcast, Quinn was called the female Ari Gold, referring to the character who was her husband on Entourage.

Quinn wants to push extreme stereotypes and over-the-top fights. She wants manufactured drama. It goes beyond what other reality shows do, which is intentionally cast people with opposite and strong personalities whom you think will clash, and then supplying them with tons and tons of alcohol and sitting back while the sparks fly. Quinn wants Rachel and all the other producers to be more puppet-master than that.

Regardless of the truthfulness, none of this is believable, which could be fine, as it could aim for satire, but, at the same time, none of the characters are likeable. It reaches its limit of bad people doing bad things pretty early and there is no one to bring it down.

Freddie Stroma (Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and Pitch Perfect) plays Adam Cromwell who is the absolute worst. He's the 29-year-old, British hunk who is "the suitor," the equivalent of the guy who is "the bachelor." He has to date a group of women and week-to-week eliminate them until he finds someone whom he wants to marry. In reality, the process doesn't work and has been proven to be a farce, but any shred of sincerity or genuineness is completely burned away in this series.

Adam is not in this for love. He's mainly in it to build publicity for his waning business. For him, it's shameless self-promotion. He also pretty much proves himself to be a whore, literally a whore in Episode 4. It's gross and disgusting. The women whom he allegedly dates are shown to be not much better.

I get the point here. Reality TV doesn't have anything to do with reality or how people actually behave. Everyone involved puts on an act for self-aggrandizing or some selfish purpose other than just sheer, human connection or compassion. The problem is that I don't buy it. Plus, it's too oppressive to be bombarded with it. Even in House of Cards, there are people or characters who push back or against the cynicism. This show just revels in it.

One Star out of Five.
Rated TV-MA-LS.
Running Time: 1 hr.
Mondays at 10PM on Lifetime.


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