*No one likes to see how the sausage is made, but Lifetime is banking on enough fans of reality television to embrace a scripted series that shows what really goes on behind the scenes with executive producers and producers who do all kinds of dubious things – including the use of racist tactics – to generate the highest ratings possible.
“UnREAL,” premiering Monday at 10 p.m., follows the production of a dating competition show similar to ABC’s “The Bachelor.” This one’s called “Everlasting,” where the man sifts through a pool of young women to find a bride for what promises to be a fairytale wedding.
But contrary to the glossy adventures going on in front of the camera, the backlot shenanigans are more like “The Hunger Games.” Executive producer Quinn King (Constance Zimmer, “House of Cards”) is in a constant, cut-throat quest to create dramatic narratives for the women where none exist, while young producer Rachel Goldberg (Shiri Appleby, “Girls”), Quinn’s enforcer-of-sorts, is tasked with manipulating the contestants and the bachelor in whatever way necessary to get the footage Quinn demands.
One of the pilot’s early scenes satirizes the real-life lack of diversity on these types of dating shows. The first woman filmed arriving to the bachelor pad is black, but is so light that Quinn can’t tell — until she introduces herself to the bachelor as “Shamiqua.” Quinn rips the African American producer in the control room who casted her and reminds him that girls with “wife potential” should always arrive to the house first.
“It’s not my fault America is racist, people!” she shouts before ordering someone to get a white girl to arrive first.
Viewers will see this world through Rachel’s eyes, and Appleby says her character struggles with how effective she is in shaping the show’s “reality” – often doing things that bring emotional harm to the contestants for the betterment of the program.
“I think that she genuinely likes all the women that she’s producing on the show, and she actually wants to help them out and help them be good,” Appleby told the TCA in January. “I don’t really think that she’s trying to take any of the other contestants down. I don’t think that’s her point of view. But she’s found a place and she’s found a family for herself in this environment. As the season goes on, you see that her home life is really damaged. And she really doesn’t really have a home. She lives in the back of the grip truck. But she’s found her community in this world, and so she does whatever she can to succeed and take care of herself.”
Below, Zimmer says everyone can relate to at least one character on this show:
“UnREAL” premieres Monday, June 1, at 10 p.m. on Lifetime.
Watch a promo and the show’s first 9 minutes below: