Perhaps to draw attention to its season 2 premiere on June 6th Lifetime has already announced a season 3 renewal for breakout dark comedic drama UnREAL. The series is a harsh caricature of ABC’s long-running reality series The Bachelor, focusing on the role of the producers as they artfully—sometimes cruelly—orchestrate the illusion of romance.
Despite a slow launch, season 1 of the show was an unlikely hit for Lifetime, a network most often associated with weepy women’s dramas. Across all platforms the season averaged 3.7 million viewers according to Deadline, and most importantly it skews younger than any other Lifetime show; it’s average viewer age was 43 years-old.
While UnREAL may draw in the girl crowd there’s nothing in it to turn guys away. Like other shows that have dramatized the behind the scenes aspects of an industry UnREAL is no more about romance than Sports Night was about sports or The Office was about paper. Quinn King (Constance Zimmer) and Rachel Goldberg (Shiri Abbleby) are no Lorelai and Sookie, stopping for emotional gab sessions in the kitchen over coffee. They’re successful TV execs who just happen to be girls.
The show-within-a-show that King and Goldberg produce is named Everlasting and in season 1 Freddie Stroma played British man-child Adam Cromwell, using his appearance on the show to promote his brand as well as enjoy the pretty girls. Stroma will return for season 2, most likely as some kind of mentor or helping hand to this season’s bachelor Darius (B.J. Britt). (Notably, Everlasting has managed to find more diversity in just 2 seasons, casting an African-American as the new suitor, than The Bachelor has in 20.) At the TCA press tour the show’s creators said this year’s focus will depart from the exploration of the princess fantasy, this year looking at masculinity and men’s rights.
The cast has admitted that adjusting to filming a show within a show can be unsettling, with real crewmembers filming extras dressed as crewmembers filming a fake show. Britt told EW: “I’ve gone up to a bunch of people and asked, ‘Where is so-and-so?’ and they’re like, ‘Oh, I don’t work here, I’m just an actor,’ so I’m like, ‘Ah! I’m so sorry!’ You don’t know which cameras are rolling, and it’s confusing, but it keeps you on your A game.”
It was previously announced that Season 2 will also welcome Ioan Gruffudd as John Booth, a ““ruggedly handsome, optimistic and curious with the breezy demeanor of a man who owns the world. He’s quick minded, adventurous, has a good sense of humor, and no challenge is too huge for him.” He’s also a possible love interest for Quinn King. As of today Gruffudd is still not listed on the show’s IMDb credits though that could just be an oversight. Craig Bierko, Brennan Elliott, and Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman are also returning.
Created by Marti Noxon and Sarah Gertrude Shapiro, a former producer on The Bachelor, UnREAL is based on an independent short Shapiro made in 2013. As a feminist she was loathe to work on the reality series but had signed a contract allowing the production company she worked for to place her on any of their projects. She described to The Hollywood Reporter how she hated herself and hated the work she was producing. It’s ironic that her show ended up on Lifetime but the network’s SVP of scripted series and development assured her they understood how dark she wanted the material to be.
That darkly real mood is exactly what the public seems to love. Both those who watch reality shows like The Bachelor and those who wouldn’t stoop to acknowledge they exist have enjoyed seeing what we expected all along: that Oz is a fraud. No bachelor is that flawless, no contestant is that crazy, and no producer can honestly claim ignorance.
Season 2 starts June 6 on Lifetime. Season 1 can be seen on Hulu.
— kpsycho kardashian (@hairlikebrillo) May 24, 2016
— Kyle Clarke (@KyleClarke10) June 1, 2016