Keeping it real
UnReal takes a harsh look at the reality behind reality TV, writes ANDREW FENTON
CO- CREATED by former US The Bachelor producer Sarah Gertrude Shapiro, UnReal is a merciless look at the manipulation and double dealing that happens behind the scenes on a reality show exactly like – you guessed it – The Bachelor.
Strangely, though, the show appeals just as much to those who love The Bachelor as those who can’t stand what they see as its trickery and artificiality.
“It was one of the things we were afraid of, actually – the people who love [ The Bachelor]. Would they not want to watch it?,” says Constance Zimmer, who plays Quinn, the morally questionable and borderline reprehensible producer of UnReal’s fictional dating show Everlasting. “So I think when both sides loved it equally, that was the biggest compliment.”
Zimmer says she became fascinated with the reality-TV world while making the show.
“I’d read these scripts and think, ‘How is it possible this is a television show?’ And then I would go and watch a couple of these dating competition shows and I was just floored by how much they were mirroring what we were doing.”
UnReal has struck a nerve with some, including US host of The Bachelor Chris Harrison, who attacked it as “terrible, really terrible” and “complete fiction”.
But anonymously, reality-TV insiders here and in the US have conceded it’s not that far off.
“I have to say [the reaction] has been fairly positive from people who aren’t afraid to admit how close to the truth it is,” Zimmer says.
UnReal is almost a post-feminist show in that it’s not afraid to show its two female leads – Zimmer and co-star Shiri Appleby, who plays stand-in producer Rachel – as strong women who leave a trail of human wreckage behind them.
“Look at the stream now of flawed, complicated women who are the leads of television shows – even more so than films because television is ready and willing to explore that women are just as messed up as men,” Zimmer says.
Production for season two is set to start soon, with a twist: this time the show will rather pointedly offer up the first ever African-American Bachelor.
“In the first season of the show we were making sure we didn’t upset people too fast, too soon,” Zimmer says.
“But now we’re like, ‘Oh you like that?’ We’re going to give you more of that and it’s going to be darker.”
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Behind the scenes: Constance Zimmer plays the controversial producer of a fictional dating show (top) in UnReal.