If you have not heard of Lifetime Channel’s new smash hit UnREALTV, honestly you truly are missing one rollercoaster of a ride. Up until this show premiered a few weeks ago, I was unaware of what reality shows were really like–behind the scenes. I mean, like most people, I figured there might be some situations on reality shows that were manufactured, but for the most part, I was convinced that most of what I saw was genuine. I was never a fan of reality shows in general, and I wouldn’t dream of watching The Bachelor or The Bachelorette for anything. For me, those shows are stupid, vulgar, and cheap.
Little did I know how my perceptions of those shows were only a drop in the bucket compared to what truly goes on behind the scenes. I did review the first episode of this “unreal” show here. And as stated, the only reason I even checked out the show was that one of my all-time favorite actors had a small (but memorable) role in the show–Brennan Elliott as “Host Graham.” However, as I have watched over these past four weeks, I have found myself drawn into the story for many more reasons (I still would like to see Brennan featured more, but I always say I take what I can get).
Constance Zimmer who plays the tough, win-at-all-costs Quinn has done an amazing job of creating a character that is strong, sassy, and pathetically tragic. When I was chatting with one of my friends about her character, I agreed that Quinn was very annoying, and that tells me that Constance is playing her part perfectly. Whenever she is on the screen, she commands attention, but there’s a part of me that just can’t wait for her to go away. As we have a caught more of a glimpse into her “back story,” however, I have found that I feel sorry for her. She has had some tough breaks in life and this business, and I believe I feel a minimal amount of sympathy for Quinn. I’d like to think she has a heart under that steel exterior, but I guess time will only tell. I believe that Quinn is the very essence of what a woman often must be (or feels she must be) in this television executive world that is still essentially dominated by males, and the more I see this character, the more I despise her (but feel sorry for her and root for her at the same time–what a dichotomy).
Much the same can be said for the character of Rachel played flawlessly by Shiri Appleby. Indeed Rachel is probably even more of a tragic character, and oftentimes I find myself softening towards her. At times, her character has displayed that she does have a heart, but she is also quite confused and pulled in too many directions to count. The more I learn of Rachel’s past, the more I feel some sorrow for her and her position. And as of episode four, it is clear that she is really caught in a rock and a hard place concerning the bachelor of the show. (If you haven’t seen episode four, stop reading this review immediately and go watch it!) If there is anyone on this show I am cheering for, it’s Rachel. I realize her character is not a contestant, but I would so love to see her work through her issues and maybe even find true love herself. I am completely captivated by the genuineness Shiri brings to this role. I sometimes have to remind myself that she is only acting the role as everything about her seems to ring true.
I’ll admit in my first review, I was not taken with Freddie Stroma’s portrayal of the unfortunate Adam Cromwell. I felt his acting was rather flat, but I did mention that perhaps he was playing this character that way on purpose. And I do believe that was the case. As time has gone on, Freddie’s portrayal of this bachelor has made more sense. After all, Adam doesn’t want to be there, and he is essentially going through the motions. As Adam has realized that this show may be his only hope for redemption in his life, his character has “stepped up to the plate,” and I am beginning to see a glimmer of the real Adam. No more hiding behind English convention nor subtleties. I was most impressed with the way he convinced the contestants that it was fear that caused him to get in touch with his ex-fiance again, and as Rachel intimated, that was probably the first time we saw some verity from Adam. His character is out to win at any cost, and the depths of degradation do surprise me at times (they surprise Rachel too). As Adam’s character has become more developed, I have realized just how exceptionally Freddie portrays him.
The biggest surprise for me has been Breeda Wool’s portrayal of Faith. As a conservative Christian, I am always very intrigued by Hollywood’s perception of so-called Christians. All too often, they are portrayed as hypocrites, and I am never bothered by that. After all, I live in the real world, and I constantly come across people who claim to be Christians but their lives do not come anywhere close to what a real Christian should be. In fact, the only thing that sets them apart is a judgmental attitude, and Breeda has completely nailed this image in her character. In fact, be sure to watch the “sneak peek” at the end of this blog post, and you will see exactly what I mean. Breeda plays Faith as a genuine fake, and she does it so convincingly. I greatly anticipate what is in store for her in the next episodes.
Let’s talk about one of my favorite things this show covers–racism. As one who loathes racism, and in an industry where I had no idea racism still exists, this was possibly the most shocking thing so far in the series. Meet Athena (played by Natasha Burnett), the token “black” contestant who understands from the beginning that her chances of winning are nonexistent. But Athena is in it to get notoriety and at least make it to the finals. And this character will do whatever it takes. This scene is a particularly brilliant one where Athena and Faith have a race altercation. Poor Adam is caught in the middle and does what any man in his position would. I honestly hoped her character would survive because I am so impressed with the way Natasha plays her.
This brings us right to my reason for watching the show–Brennan Elliott as the host, Graham. Talk about explosive. As the host, Brennan doesn’t get a lot of screen time, but when episode four begins this way–what can one say?
I was astounded to see Athena and Graham together, and it would seem that she thought they made some kind of deal. If you don’t believe me, be sure to watch the end of episode four. (Evidently, I am wrong. It was not Athena in the room with him. It was another of the contestants that was let go.) After the first episode of the show, I decided that Graham was just “going through the motions.” He sometimes seems very bored in his host position. I guess having that contestant with him just happens to be one of the perks, and it truly caused me to wonder whether hosts of reality shows often take advantage of their positions and sample the pleasures without anyone’s knowledge. Oh, and for the record, Brennan is completely captivating in this role. I think in the four episodes that have aired so far, his screen time has probably been less than ten minutes, but if there’s anyone who knows how to capitalize on every second he’s on-screen, it’s Brennan. I honestly don’t think anyone could have executed this role with such finesse and impeccable talent. While some may attempt to forget his role as Graham, I tend to think that he will continue to be one of the more memorable characters on the series. Too bad his character turned out to be just as corrupt as the rest of them (but oh he has plenty of experience playing corrupt characters well–just tune into Cedar Cove on July 18).
One other character who has caught my interest is that of Jeremy played quite competently by Josh Kelly. I was aware of his character on the show, but because of his tireless promotion of the show (oh, and his promotion of other actors in the show–like Brennan), I decided I needed to really pay attention to his character. For me, it is never enough to be a great actor. I watch the interactions on social media and in the press as well, and that is how this actor caught my eye. So yes, Josh does a wonderful job in his role, and I look forward to seeing how his character and Rachel will continue to relate to each other. Seeing him play the cameraman who really would rather have a more viable role in the production is realistic, brutal, and well-executed by him. He is certainly one to watch in the upcoming shows.
Now for what you all might be waiting–yes I had the opportunity to catch a sneak peek at episode five, and all I can say is–you ain’t seen nothin’ yet! I think this one will be an even more difficult one to watch as my girl Faith is ready to make the ultimate decision that may change the course of her life forever. Yes, things are going to get more realistic which means they will get darker. And yes, they might just get even more “unreal.”
For anyone interested, I do have a brief clip of this episode for you to enjoy:
(Note: This will download a file to your computer so you can view the clip.)
Be sure to tune in for Episode 5 on Monday, June 29 at 10/9c on Lifetime. You can also live tweet with the cast if you like. Just be sure to use the hashtag #UnREALTV.
Also, please note this is not family friendly viewing. This show is not for everyone as there are adult themes, sexual situations, and profanity.