A chaotic look at the off-camera drama of reality TV.
On Hulu | 2015-2018 | TV-MA | 38 episodes
Genre: Reality TV satire, dark comedy
Why I watched: Liz mentioned Unreal several months ago when we were talking about reality TV. To be truthful, I forgot about it until recently when The Bachelor started teasing the now-infamous fence jump. This season of The Bachelor has become increasingly outlandish—dare I say the most dramatic season ever—as it nears its finale, which prompted me to look for a show that can fill the reality TV-shaped void in my streaming rotation.
You might also like: Let's be honest with ourselves. If you're interested in watching shows like Unreal or The Bachelor, you're probably looking for something with a hint of (trashy) drama. 90 Day Fiancé, now streaming on Hulu, is an excellent place to start. It follows couples in international relationships and fiancés of US citizens receive a visa that allows them to travel to the US. The couples have just 90 days to decide whether they'll marry before the visa expires and the non-citizen must leave the country.
If you follow What-To-Watch over on Twitter, you know that I've been tuning in to watch Colton Underwood's journey to find love on The Bachelor. (If you don't follow us on Twitter, please do.) As the name suggests, The Bachelor follows a single man's attempts to find a wife among 30 or so contestants. Each week the lead goes on dates with the women, eliminating those each week who he "can't see a future with." The season typically ends with a proposal to one of the final two women, at which point the happy couple can marry and live happily ever after.
Except that they don't. In most cases, the couple stays together for a few months before parting ways and beginning their careers promoting SugarBearHair Vitamins or hosting a podcast. Contestants are more often The Bachelor for a social media platform than for love. And Unreal isn't too far off from this world. The series follows the showrunners of the fictional reality TV series Everlasting, a lightly veiled version of The Bachelor, and provides a behind-the-scenes look at what goes into creating good TV. Unreal begins as producer Rachel Goldberg (Shiri Appleby) returns to set after suffering a mental breakdown during the previous season of Everlasting. Along with executive producer Quinn King (Constance Zimmer), the pair manipulates, deceived, and "produces" contestants so that they can capture even more outrageous footage.
Although presented as fiction, the events of Unreal are disturbingly close to what we watch on TV, given its Bachelor-produced roots. Take, for example, season three of the show, which features its first female "Suitress." In order to increase revenue, the show has swapped out the usual jewelry handed out to contestants each week—representing their livelihood in the competition—for product placement. Each week the Suitress gives remaining contestants a branded watch or tire gauge, followed immediately by an ad for the respective company. And if you watched the "Women Tell All" special on The Bachelor this week, you might have noticed a similar strategy. Amid Nicole's tears about the drama among other girls, Chris Harrison announced that she would have another reason to cry: Halo Top will be supplying her with free ice cream for the year, in addition to handing out pints to everyone in the audience.
Despite its recognition of the dark and less-than-glamorous aspects of TV, this is a fun one, y'all. Get ready for a wild ride and see you at the next tire gauge ceremony.