UnREAL Season 1 Review

Mitchel Brousard

Reviewed by:
On May 31, 2015
Last modified:May 31, 2015


It's got big ideas and a dark enough tone to tackle them in due time, but for the first three hours at least, UnREAL introduces itself as a shockingly watchable showbiz farce with only fleeting teases of what could be something truly special.

UnREAL Season 1 Review

UnREAL cast photo

Three episodes were provided for reviewing purposes prior to broadcast.

At one point during the series premiere of Lifetime’s new drama series UnREAL (cool name, unfortunate stylization), a group of puppet-masters behind the scenes of a The Bachelor-esque style dating show discuss the merits of minorities depicted on their show. A grand total of two black women are in the running to become the wife (winner? publicity stunt?) of English black sheep Adam Cromwell, and though producer Quinn (the marvelous Constance Zimmer) has high hopes for one or both of the ladies to be drama-stirrers, she knows neither are even close to breaking the final four in winning the pure-bread Englishman’s heart (read: allowance). “It’s not my fault that America is racist,” Quinn says with a shrug.

It’s not an earth-shattering revelation by any means, but it feels simultaneously edgy and brave for Lifetime’s largely soporific programming, and certainly all of this generally played-straight doom-and-gloom is a curious companion to the network’s downright farcical-in-comparison Devious Maids. But, all the same, it feels endearingly self-aware on such a network that calls True Tori its home, as if the big brass behind the scenes were beginning to finally fear that the production of yet another Natalee Holloway-inspired made-for-TV movie needed to be balanced out with a bit more gravitas.

Adapted from co-creator Sarah Gertrude Shapiro’s short film Sequin Raze, we pick up the pieces in the premiere with Rachel (Shiri Appleby), a disheveled producer on “Everlasting,” the faux show-within-the-show from which she’s been ousted previously for a largely public meltdown of some kind. A few months later, she’s back, much to the happiness of her ruthless EP Quinn, who’s been getting by with a few low-level producers and interns in Rachel’s absence.

To run the show, Quinn delegates swathes of each of the eligible women to every producer. So, when someone has a meltdown or throws a vase or starts a catfight, the producer backing the girl gets a cash reward. Inversely, anytime someone talks about their feelings, or jovially laughs in large groups, or generally has a good time, Quinn bites their heads off faster than a Great White. UnREAL, as such, is a sort of dating version of The Hunger Games; “Everlasting” is the competition, the women are the tributes, and Rachel is a Gamemaker, ready to unleash mutated dogs on the contestants at any time.

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