Let’s be real (pun intended). We’ve all at least seen one episode of The Bachelor or The Bachelorette at some point in our lives, whether it was forced upon us or by voluntary choice. The multi-million dollar franchise was born and bred by ABC and it’s executive producer, Mike Fleiss, and has ultimately revolutionized our perception of reality TV: attempting in a dream-like fashion to make its viewers believe in a fantastical story of romance with people “just like you and me!”
The show’s classic formula is as follows: a lead is deemed “Bachelor” or “Bachelorette” and begins by dating 25-30 eligible men or women. Each episode, one or more of these potential suitors are eliminated by the lead after various one on one or group dates. Eventually, it is narrowed down to two potential fiancé(es), and finally one proposal (adversely, the unlucky runner-up is often dumped in a suit or ball gown). This is all done in sparkly Irish castles, whimsical chateaus in the French Riviera, or in the jungles of Thailand. If anything, the Bachelor franchise is renowned for it’s over the top locations, ridiculously competitive dates, lack of diversity, and shiploads of candles (I’m honestly surprised they haven’t had anything majorly catch fire yet…)
But, the magic in this show lies not just in its cheese factor. It lies in its ability to mentally toy with the individuals participating, ensuing absurd drama, thus making the show more interesting than it ever would be. And this is exactly the story that UnREAL tells.
Lifetime’s UnREAL follows the life of a producer, Rachel, who works for a fictional show called “Everlasting,” which you guessed it, is a rip-off and mockery of the Bachelor franchise. The show exposes the evils of reality TV in a very raw and for lack of a better word, real way, where producers have to manipulate the contestants into saying exactly what they want to hear. Even though UnREAL isn’t the most perfectly plotted show and is meant to be farce, (cue the dull off-camera love interests, clichés, and dead bodies..) this new take on “authenticity” and it’s relation to reality TV definitely deserves a standing ovation. These are five reasons why we’re obsessed with UnREAL.
1. It’s Inception, but with TV
UnREAL is ultimately a show within a show, which is a cool concept to begin with. As a very TV-centric generation, we are not only fascinated with the characters and plots of certain shows, we are even more fascinated with what goes on to create the actual production. The real people behind the show, the producers, actors, and writers. I mean, when was the last time you stalked the most recent Bachelor’s Instagram, or a Bachelor producer’s twitter? Yesterday? See? There you go. We’re interested in these people’s lives to a very powerful extent because they’re in effect, just like us. We could be them. And UnREAL satisfies this need. We’re getting the artificial show, and the behind the scenes. It’s pretty cool.
2. It highlights issues with reality TV
A huge theme throughout UnREAL teaches us the evils of reality TV, namely: its hunger for drama. We like to be entertained. We do. But, we don’t really realize how much entertainment we get from seeing others upset. And that’s one of the scary truths that UnREAL reveals. We laugh at the cat-fights and cheer against the “villain.” What’s worse is that as an audience, we always demand it, there always has to be a bad girl or guy. UnREAL gives us an entirely new perspective on this and actually makes us want to rethink our own judgment calls on reality TV as a whole.
3. It teaches us that we shouldn’t believe what we see
Many instances in UnREAL show us the producer’s manipulative questions and ploys to get the women on “Everlasting” to react. Many conversations start with a producer saying, “I heard ‘so and so’ was talking about you…” We should take these clues wisely, and realize that this certainly is a very important tactic when it comes to reality TV. The trick, though, is realizing who out of the contestants will react badly to something like this, as opposed to others, who will hold their tongue, (this is a very obstacle that the producers on UnREAL face). This, overall, teaches us that we shouldn’t always believe in every piece of drama that ensues on our favorite reality shows, because often, it’s prompted.
4. Rachel is really relatable
A lead that’s actually relatable?! Well, thank goodness. In all seriousness though, Rachel is a kickass protagonist in a lot of ways. Not only does she have a cool “I do what I want” way about her, she has a very complex emotional side to her that makes her a very interesting character to follow, and even more interesting when it comes to her job. You can really empathize with her when she’s lying to many of the contestants: you can tell that she’s struggling. She humanizes the people behind the franchise, and shows us that they have hearts too.
5. At the end of the day, it’s meant to be light-hearted
The best thing about UnREAL is that it’s meant to be comical. It’s not a serious investigative journalism docu-series on the lives of Bachelor/Bachelorette producers. It’s meant to be taken with a grain of salt, but still reveals a vital portion of what goes on behind reality TV. UnREAL reminds us that reality TV is just that: still TV. Plus, the whole horse and carriage deal, thousands of candles, and love bracelets are simply hilarious details that can’t be overlooked.