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

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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

I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction (FreshFiction.tv) as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.