Unreal (TV series)

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Unreal
UnReal lifetime logo.png
Genre Drama
Created by Marti Noxon
Sarah Gertrude Shapiro
Based on Sequin Raze
by Sarah Gertrude Shapiro[1]
Starring
Composer(s) Fil Eisler
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 2
No. of episodes 20 (list of episodes)
Production
Executive producer(s) Marti Noxon
Robert M. Sertner
Sarah Gertrude Shapiro
Bill Davenport
Sally DeSipio
Stacy Rukeyser
Location(s) Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Running time 42 minutes
Production company(s) A+E Studios
Wieden-Kennedy Entertainment
Tiny Pyro
Frank and Bob Films II
Release
Original network Lifetime
Original release June 1, 2015 (2015-06-01) – present
External links
Official website www.mylifetime.com/shows/unreal

Unreal (stylized as UnREAL) is an American drama television series that premiered on Lifetime on June 1, 2015.[2] It stars Shiri Appleby as a young reality television producer pushed by her unscrupulous boss (Constance Zimmer) to swallow her integrity and do anything it takes to drum up salacious show content. The show was created by Marti Noxon and Sarah Gertrude Shapiro, and was inspired by Shapiro's award-winning independent short film Sequin Raze.[1]

Unreal has received critical acclaim from critics,[3] and was picked up for a second season in July 2015.[4] The second season premiered on June 6, 2016.[5] On June 2, 2016, the series was renewed for a third season ahead of the season 2 premiere.[6] In May 2017, Lifetime announced that the premiere of Season 3 would be delayed and will likely air in early 2018.[7]

Plot[edit]

Producer Rachel Goldberg returns to Everlasting, a popular dating show, after a breakdown. With a reputation to rebuild and 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 that viewers expect.

Cast[edit]

Season 1 cast photo (from l. to r.: Kelly, Braddy, Zimmer, Appleby, Stroma, Scott, Kelley)

Main[edit]

Crew[edit]

  • Shiri Appleby as Rachel Goldberg, a producer on Everlasting who is brought back to the show by executive producer Quinn despite Rachel's epic breakdown during the previous season. Though conflicted by how she must lie to and manipulate the contestants, Rachel is a "closer" who thinks fast on her feet and knows exactly what needs to be done to create drama on the show. Meanwhile, she is drawn back to her ex-boyfriend Jeremy and finds herself getting close to the show's suitor Adam, but she later loses relationships to both of them. Rachel is later promoted to supervising producer, which is short-lived as Coleman is hired by the network as the new showrunner.
  • Constance Zimmer as Quinn King, Everlasting's scheming, demanding executive producer who pushes boundaries on the show to maximize ratings. She is having an affair with Chet, but their dysfunctional relationship is strained by his marriage and their work. She later gets promoted to showrunner until Chet returns, and their conflict results in the network hiring Coleman as the show's new EP and showrunner.
  • Craig Bierko as Chet Wilton, the eccentric and drug-using creator of Everlasting who is having a volatile affair with Quinn. His immaturity, vulgarity and callousness have given him a keen eye for what the audience wants, but his tremendous success has only fueled his self-destructive self-indulgence. He gets banned from work for his bad behavior behind-the-scenes, but later returns after adopting a healthier lifestyle, putting himself into direct conflict with Quinn. He also joins the men's liberation movement, and enlists Jeremy as part of his cause.
  • Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman as Jay, a gay producer on Everlasting who is initially one of Rachel's only friends. He soon crosses Quinn, and becomes more willing to step over the line in order to ingratiate himself to Chet. He later becomes jealous of Rachel for her job promotion, and grows frustrated by competing against a newly promoted Madison.
  • Josh Kelly as Jeremy Caner, a camera operator (later promoted to director of photography) on Everlasting, and Rachel's ex-boyfriend. Formerly engaged to the show's make-up artist Lizzie, he still has unresolved feelings for Rachel. He briefly gets back together with Rachel, but breaks up with her after he finds out that she cheated on him with Adam. He returns to work on the new season a bitter and angry drunk over having his heart broken by Rachel.

Suitor[edit]

  • Freddie Stroma as Adam Cromwell (season 1; guest star season 2), a rich British playboy and the "suitor" on Everlasting. He is reluctant to do the show, but is hoping the publicity will improve his "bad boy" reputation and help with his business ventures. As Adam becomes savvy to the producers' manipulations and what will make the show "better", he alternately plays along, and does some kindnesses to individual contestants. He also begins to develop an attraction to Rachel and has an affair with her, but it ultimately ends in heartbreak when he later finds out from her boss Quinn about her fragile mental health, and she convinces him to end his affair with Rachel. In season 2, Quinn briefly brings back Adam to participate as a consultant to the show's new suitor Darius in an episode on the new season of Everlasting, and to try to ruin Rachel's budding romantic relationship with Coleman and to get back together with her, but is unsuccessful at doing so when she doesn't want to get back together with him after he broke her heart.
  • B. J. Britt as Darius Beck (season 2), the first African-American suitor on Everlasting and a professional football player, who hopes that being on Everlasting will help polish his image after being involved in a public relations scandal.
  • Caitlin FitzGerald as Serena (season 3), Everlasting's first female suitor who's a successful Silicon Valley venture capitalist.[8][9]

Contestants[edit]

  • Johanna Braddy as Anna Martin (season 1), a contestant who is bulimic and an attorney. She almost leaves Everlasting when her father dies, but she is coaxed back by Rachel with feigned assurances that she will likely win. She eventually wins Adam's heart and gets engaged to him, but later leaves him at the altar on their televised wedding day after she finds out from Rachel about Adam's affair with her off the set.
  • Nathalie Kelley as Grace (season 1), a contestant who is a swimsuit model. She and Adam have an immediate sexual attraction, and though Quinn does not see her as an acceptable winner for the competition, Grace is determined to win, but she comes in second place losing to Anna to win Adam's heart.
  • Ashley Scott as Mary Newhouse (season 1), one of the oldest contestants who is a single mother with an abusive ex-husband. Quinn, finding Mary uninteresting, pushes her to step up her game, not knowing that Shia has tampered with Mary's mood stabilizing medication and given her alcohol. Bipolar and struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder, Mary begins to unravel under the pressure put on her by the manipulations of Rachel, Quinn, Shia, and Chet. She later commits suicide during the production of the show.
  • Breeda Wool as Faith Duluth (season 1), a contestant who is a shy and insecure Christian virgin. Rachel later helps Faith realize that she is a lesbian, and is in love with her female best friend back in her hometown in Mississippi.
  • Monica Barbaro as Yael/"Hot Rachel" (season 2), a contestant who is an undercover reporter (posing as a fashion blogger), and who the crew calls out as the hotter, less damaged, not crazy version of Rachel.
  • Denée Benton as Ruby Carter (season 2), a contestant who is a Black Lives Matter activist looking to use the show to promote her message.
  • Kim Matula as Tiffany James (season 2), a contestant who is the wealthy daughter of an NFL team owner who hopes that being on Everlasting will help her step out of her father's shadow.
  • Meagan Tandy as Chantal (season 2), a contestant who is a beautiful and sophisticated southern debutante who is recovering from the death of her fiancé.
  • Bart Edwards as Jasper (season 3), a contestant who's a successful Wall Street investment banker who seems like he'll make the perfect power couple with Serena.[10]
  • Alex Hernandez as Owen (season 3), a contestant who's a firefighter and a single father looking for love.[11]
  • Adam Demos as August (season 3), a contestant who was a surfer who joined the Peace Corps to save the world.[11]
  • Alex Sparrow as Alexi (season 3), a contestant who's a "bad boy" ballet dancer.[11]
  • Joe Abraham as Norman (season 3), a contestant who's a jockey and a very confident elite athlete.[11]
  • Tyler Hynes as Billy (season 3), a contestant who's a race car driver who lives by his own traditional and conservative values.[11]
  • Marcus Rosner as Warren (season 3), a contestant who's a rancher with a cowboy attitude.[11]
  • Cameron Bancroft as Preston (season 3), an older contestant who's a Miami real estate tycoon.[11]
  • Terry Chen as Guy (season 3), a contestant who's a tattoed chef who is looking for any way to get ahead on Everlasting.[11]
  • Melvin Gregg as Zach (season 3), a contestant who's a charming social media star.[11]

Other regulars[edit]

  • Aline Elasmar as Shia (season 1), a producer on Everlasting who has a professional rivalry with Rachel. Initially earnest with her take on contestant storylines, she soon learns that she has to be more ruthless and manipulative—like Rachel—to compete and succeed. To this end, she gets Maya drunk and tampers with Mary's mood stabilizing medication, but loses control of the outcome.
  • Michael Rady as Coleman Wasserman (season 2), a executive producer and new show-runner on Everlasting who was a documentary filmmaker prior to joining the show. He and Rachel become a couple but she worries when Coleman makes it clear he wants to destroy the show.
  • Gentry White as Romeo Beck (season 2), Darius' cousin and manager who moves into the Everlasting mansion with him.
  • Kassandra Clementi as Crystal (season 3), a swimsuit model and Chet's girlfriend.[12]
  • Jaime Callica as Xavier (season 3), a dancer and Jay's boyfriend.[12]

Recurring[edit]

  • Brennan Elliott as Graham, the host of Everlasting.
  • Amy Hill as Dr. Wagerstein, a therapist employed by the show who feeds the producers personal information about the contestants to better manipulate dramatic moments from them.
  • Genevieve Buechner as Madison, Quinn's meek production assistant who has oral sex with Chet and is later promoted to junior producer on Everlasting.
  • Martin Cummins as Brad (seasons 1-2), an executive at the network that airs Everlasting, who was later fired by the network after Chet returned to work.
  • Mimi Kuzyk as Dr. Olive Goldberg, Rachel's overprotective psychiatrist mother.
  • Donavon Stinson as Dan, the assistant director of Everlasting.

Season 1[edit]

  • Arielle Kebbel as Britney, a contestant whom Quinn brands "the villain" and is one of the first eliminated from Everlasting.
  • Siobhan Williams as Lizzie, a make-up artist on Everlasting and Jeremy's former fiancée.
  • Christie Laing as Shamiqua, a contestant who is a clerk for a Supreme Court Justice.
  • Natasha Wilson as Maya, a contestant. Shia gets her drunk which results in Maya being raped by Adam's friend Roger.
  • J. R. Bourne as Bill DeYoung, Quinn's former writing partner and ex-boyfriend, who is a recovering alcoholic.
  • Stephanie Bennett as Pepper, a contestant who is an elementary school teacher.
  • Sonya Salomaa as Cynthia Wilton, Chet's ex-wife.
  • Graeme McComb as Sam, the assistant director of Everlasting.
  • Andrea Brooks as Tanya

Season 2[edit]

  • Ioan Gruffudd as John Booth, an optimistic and adventurous tech billionaire who owns the television network that airs Everlasting.[13]
  • Christopher Cousins as Gary, the president of the television network that airs Everlasting.[14]
  • Karissa Tynes as Jameson, a contestant who is a police officer dedicated to her job, but she hopes that her chemistry with Darius will help fill the missing void in her love life.[15]
  • Lindsay Musil as Beth Ann, a contestant from a small town in Alabama who speaks her mind without a filter, and is cast on the show to stir up controversy.[14]
  • Monique Ganderton as Brandi, a shy contestant who overcame a traumatic past to become a mixed martial arts fighter.[15]
  • Elizabeth Whitmere as Dominique, a contestant who is a professional basketball player and a serious contender for Darius since they have a lot of common being professional athletes.[15]
  • Jessica Sipos as Hayley, a contestant who is a physical therapist who is sexually adventurous, loves yoga, and is a healer.[15]
  • Sunita Prasad as London, a contestant who is an engineer with a conservative personality who joins the cast of Everlasting to explore her wild side.[15]

Season 3[edit]

Episodes[edit]

Season Episodes Originally aired
First aired Last aired
1 10 June 1, 2015 (2015-06-01) August 3, 2015 (2015-08-03)
2 10 June 6, 2016 (2016-06-06) August 8, 2016 (2016-08-08)

Development and production[edit]

On July 30, 2013, Lifetime placed a pilot order on Unreal, inspired by Sarah Gertrude Shapiro's award-winning independent short film Sequin Raze.[19] Shapiro had previously worked at the American reality dating series The Bachelor.[20] The pilot was written by Marti Noxon and Shapiro, and directed by Peter O'Fallon.[19] On February 6, 2014, Lifetime officially green-lit Un-Real with a 10-episode series order.[21][22] In March 2015, the premiere date was announced as June 1, 2015.[2] On July 6, 2015, the series was renewed for a second season of 10 episodes, to premiere in 2016.[4] The second season will continue to feature the fictional show, Everlasting, with Quinn and Rachel returning as main characters.[23]

Casting[edit]

Casting announcements began in September 2013, with Shiri Appleby first cast in the lead role of Rachel Goldberg, the young staffer working on the reality dating competition.[24] Freddie Stroma was the next actor cast in the series, in the role of Adam Cromwell, the smart and wealthy bachelor on the dating series.[25] Shortly after, Josh Kelly signed onto the series regular role of Jeremy, Rachel's ex-boyfriend who also works as a cameraman on the reality dating series.[26] Breeda Wool was then added to the cast for the role of Faith, one of the contestants on the series.[27] In early-November, Megyn Price, Nathalie Kelley and Johanna Braddy joined the show's cast. Price signed onto the role of Quinn King, the controlling executive producer on the reality series; Kelley joined in the role of Grace, an eco-swimwear designer/model and contestant on the series; and Braddy set as Anna, a type-A control freak and attorney who is also a contestant on the series. Ashley Scott was later cast in the role of Mary, the single mother of a 4-year-old daughter who joins the series hoping to find love.[28] In June 2014, Price was replaced by Constance Zimmer as Quinn.[29] On July 22, 2014, it was announced that Craig Bierko has been cast as a character named Chet, who is the reality dating show's creator.[30] On August 8, 2014, it was announced that J. R. Bourne and Siobhan Williams were both cast on the show in recurring roles, Bourne as Quinn's recovering drug addict ex-boyfriend and former writing partner, and Williams as Everlasting's new make-up artist who is also Jeremy's fiancée.[31]

Concept and characterization[edit]

Unreal is set behind the scenes of Everlasting, a fictional reality dating series operating similarly to The Bachelor.[2][20] Dalene Rovenstine of Entertainment Weekly wrote, "UnREAL has comic moments, but is also twisty and dark in a way you hope isn’t reflected by real-life reality shows."[32] According to Noxon, the series is based on what really happens in the world of reality show production.[33] Shapiro says, "Viewers want to believe in fairy tales, and those reality shows tap into that want. Our show dismantles that want."[33] Adds Noxon, "We thought uncovering the behind-the-scenes machinations would make great stories, and we wanted to comment on the kind of bully culture of a lot of reality television."[33] Shapiro says of the genre:

Contestants come in and think they can beat the game, but it's truly an unbeatable game ... You're ritually manipulated and charmed and edited beyond your control. Viewers think the contestants knew what they had signed up for. But they couldn't have. There's no way.[33]

Writing for the Associated Press, Frazier Moore described the show's dynamic:

UnREAL dwells in the off-camera netherworld of a dating competition show ... where a handsome bachelor must choose among a bevy of hot, hopeful women each bucking for a fairytale wedding ... The week-to-week production process is anything but romantic. On the contrary, it's a callous game of bullying and illusion whose sole objective is outrageous narratives. That process of seduction is led by executive producer Quinn King ... a single-minded puppetmaster whose chief henchman is Rachel Goldberg ... a young producer whose task is to cajole, badger and play on the weaknesses of the show's participants to get the footage Quinn demands.[33]

Jon Caramanica of The New York Times called Quinn and Rachel "architects of destruction—ostensibly of the people on camera, but really of themselves."[34] Moore noted that, despite the contestants' expectations, "the game is fixed and the matchmaking premise is only a pretext ... [the contestants] are pawns in the Everlasting chess game, with Quinn, in her video-paneled master control, pronouncing which contestant is the designated villainess, which is the hot one, which ones are boring and should be bounced."[33] Appreciating Rachel's "killer instincts" and manipulative skills, Quinn also "plays on Rachel's many weaknesses to keep her in line".[33] Caramanica commented:

UnREAL doesn’t exist just to send up reality television, or to pick at its scabs. Nor is it primarily a tell-all about the behind-the-scenes hands that shape reality-TV narrative ... Rather, UnREAL uses that access as a tool to ask questions about these sorts of programs: not just about how they operate—savagely, if its stories are to be believed—but also why participants on both sides of the camera subject themselves to them."[34]

Distribution[edit]

United States[edit]

Unreal premiered in the United States on Lifetime on June 1, 2015.[2] The network made the first four episodes available on their website on June 6, 2015, before the latter three had aired.[35]

International[edit]

The series is available to stream on Stan in Australia[36] and on Lightbox in New Zealand.[37]

In the United Kingdom, season 1 aired on Lifetime. From season 2, the show airs on Amazon Video a day after broadcast in the United States, with season 1 also available for streaming.[38]

In Israel the show airs on yes Drama channel and on Cellcom TV. In India, the show airs on Star World.[citation needed]

Web series[edit]

On January 21, 2016, it was announced that Lifetime was developing a Faith-centred spin-off web series, with Breeda Wool reprising her role from the TV series. The 10-webisode series The Faith Diaries premiered on April 13, 2016.[39][40][41][42][43][44][45][46][47][48][49][50][51][52][53][54][55][56][57][58][59][60]

Reception[edit]

Season 1[edit]

Season one of Unreal has received critical acclaim.[23] Merrill Barr of Forbes called it "one of the best new shows of the summer because it embraces the insanity it presents on screen".[61] Dalene Rovenstine of Entertainment Weekly wrote, "If you love The Bachelor, you’re going to like UnREAL. If you hate The Bachelor, you’re going to like UnREAL."[62] Jon Caramanica of The New York Times called Unreal "acerbic and unrelentingly sad" and "a close and sometimes frustrating study of women tearing other women down".[34] In December 2015, Jeff Jensen of Entertainment Weekly named Unreal as one of his "10 Best New Shows of 2015".[63]

The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes lists a 98% approval rating, based on 41 reviews, with a rating average of 8.4/10. The site's consensus states: "The revealing and thought-provoking UnREAL uses reality TV as a suitably soapy springboard for absorbing drama."[64] On Metacritic, the series has a score of 78 out of 100, indicating "generally favorable reviews."[3]

In May 2015, Unreal was one of five honorees in the Most Exciting New Series category at the 5th Critics' Choice Television Awards.[65]

Season 2[edit]

Season two received acclaim from critics. On the review aggregator Metacritic, the season holds a score of 87 out of 100, indicating "universal acclaim".[66] The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes lists a 87% approval rating, based on 38 reviews, with a rating average of 8.6/10. The site's consensus states: "UnREAL is smarter, more shameless, and more confident in its thrilling and riveting second season."[67]

Awards[edit]

Year Award Category Recipients Outcome
2015 American Film Institute Awards Top 10 TV Shows Unreal Won
Critics' Choice Television Awards Most Exciting New Series Won
2016 Critics' Choice Television Awards[68] Best Drama Series Nominated
Best Actress in a Drama Series Shiri Appleby Nominated
Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series Constance Zimmer Won
Peabody Awards[69] Unreal Won
Television Critics Association Awards[70] Program of the Year Nominated
Outstanding Achievement in Drama Nominated
Outstanding New Program Nominated
Primetime Emmy Awards[71] Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series Constance Zimmer Nominated
Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series Marti Noxon & Sarah Gertrude Shapiro
("Return")
Nominated
2017 Critics' Choice Television Awards Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series Constance Zimmer Nominated

References[edit]

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