TV Review: ‘UnREAL’ (Ep. 2-4) Cements Itself As Summer’s Must Watch Series


unreal_stillPreston Barta // Features Editor

Last week we raved about the first episode of Lifetime’s new series UnREAL. It may be a cynical, yet authentic, glimpse inside the world of reality television, but the show and its engaging characters are also very entertaining.

As the next three episodes have been available for online streaming on Lifetime’s website, we can now get a better sense of these characters and follow their path through trials and tribulations as producers trying to make “damn good television.”

Rachel (Shiri Appleby) is doing her best to pay her dues. She’s neck-deep in trouble. Among many things, her old roomy is threatening to release a damaging and embarrassing video unless she pays her overdue rent, and her mother is up her ass about doing therapy with her and getting her to quit her job. It’s hard not to sympathize with Rachel. She could work elsewhere, but she is damn good at what she does and she knows it. The job takes an emotional toll, especially while witnessing the harm visited upon the contestants, but it also presents her with challenges to which she rises with quick, clever solutions. Appleby plays this unpredictable character very well, taking us on a very intriguing ride.

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Shiri Appleby and Constance Zimmer star as Rachel and Quinn in UNREAL. Photo courtesy of Lifetime.

Meanwhile, Quinn (Constance Zimmer) is doing what she does best: calling the shots behind the camera as executive producer. Her emotions come to the fore over these next few episodes, as does Zimmer, whose acting chops in UnREAL show that she deserves far more than the background roles of her past. Quinn remains a fascinating character who can light a fire under your ass, yet she wrestles with problems of her own, especially as the mistress of EVERLASTING’s co-creator, Chet (Craig Bierko).

In the first episode, we got a taste of how these producers are not shy when it comes to manipulating and lying to get the vital footage they need, but with episodes 2-4, they take it to the nth degree. Cat fights and heartbreak ensue, some happening at the whim of the producers, some between the producers themselves. As the series simmers along, we’re all eagerly waiting to see where things lead in the remaining six episodes.

UnREAL airs on Mondays at 10/9c p.m. on Lifetime.

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About author

Preston Barta

Hello, there! My name is Preston Barta, and I am the features editor of Fresh Fiction and senior film critic at the Denton Record-Chronicle. My cinematic love story began where I was born: off planet on the isolated desert world of the Jakku system. It's there I passed the time scavenging for loose parts with my good friend Rey. One day I found an old film projector and a dusty reel of the 1975 film JAWS. It rocked my world so much that I left my kinfolk in the rearview (I so miss their morning cups of green milk) to pursue my dreams of writing about film. It wasn't long until I met two gents who said they would give me a lift. I can't recall their names, but one was an older man who liked to point a lot and the other was a tall, hairy fella. They got me as far as one of Jupiter's moons where we crossed paths with the U.S.S. Enterprise. Some pointy-eared bastard said I was clear to come aboard. He saw that I was clutching my beloved shark movie and invited me to the "moving pictures room" where he was screening the 1993 film JURASSIC PARK to his crew. He said my life would be much more prosperous if I were familiar with more work by the god named Steven Spielberg. From there, my love for cinema blossomed. Once we reached planet Earth, everything changed. I found the small town of Denton, TX, and was welcomed into the Barta family. They showed me the writings of local film critic Boo Allen. He became my hero and caused me to chase a degree in film and journalism. After my studies at graduate of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, I met some film critics who showed me the ropes and got me into my first press screening: 2011's THE GREEN LANTERN. Don't worry; I recovered just fine. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD was only four years away.