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TV Review: Lifetime’s ‘UnREAL’

UnREAL, Lifetime’s new scripted drama, is a behind-the-scenes look at a dating show. Shiri Appleby (Roswell) plays a young staffer trying to impress the reality program’s executive producer, played by Constance Zimmer (Boston Legal). Created by Marti Noxon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) and Sarah Gertrude Shapiro, whose original short film is the basis for the series, UnREAL debuts Monday at 10 p.m. The following are reviews from TV critics around the web, compiled by B&C.

“Rather, UnREAL uses that access as a tool to ask questions about these sorts of programs: not just about how they operate — savagely, if its stories are to be believed — but also why participants on both sides of the camera subject themselves to them. [...] UnREAL is a close and sometimes frustrating study of women tearing other women down, for reasons that defy articulation.”
Jon Caramanica, The New York Times

“Through the three episodes I've seen, UnReal is simultaneously a very dark satire of reality TV and a soap opera that breathes new life into old tropes by placing them in this very familiar, modern setting. [...] And regardless of how close UnReal gets to, well, the reality of the kind of show it's dramatizing, it works very, very well as an actual drama.”
Alan Sepinwall, HitFix

“At the same time, it matters less whether UnREAL is accurate than whether it is just true enough to provide a foundation for credible drama — and it very much does. Built on a pair of strong, nuanced, cliché-free performances by Shiri Appleby as Rachel, the conflicted Shapiro stand-in, and Constance Zimmer as Quinn, her cynical boss, this is a Lifetime series that transcends the words ‘Lifetime series.’”
Robert Lloyd,Los Angeles Times

“Strictly as a well-produced drama, though, UnReal looks like the real deal. So in the parlance of the genre that it parodies, the series deserves to be allowed to continue on its journey for at least a while longer.”
Brian Lowry, Variety

“But sometimes that dream world seems like it's actually happening, and a great little show emerges from whence you least expect. Like Lifetime's new scripted drama UnREAL. [...] But here comes UnREAL, and suddenly Lifetime — Lifetime! — has one of the most aggressively interesting dramas in recent memory.”
Margaret Lyons, Vulture

“There’s nothing ‘sexy’ about the shadow world of reality TV because all the ‘sexy’ is on screen. Instead, the world behind the camera is one of lies, deceit and grandstanding manipulation, and it’s hard to portray that world with characters the audience can also sympathize with… and that’s where UnREAL succeeds brilliantly.”
Merrill Barr, Forbes

“I believe every single thing the show tells viewers about what goes on behind the scenes. UnREAL will make you rethink every single reality show you’ve ever watched. So yes, UnREAL, I will continue on this journey with you.”
Amy Amatangelo, The Hollywood Reporter