Hello. I love television.
I do. I love it. I consume it, write about it, think about it, and daydream about coming home to it in the evenings. But for the first time in my TV-loving LIFE, last summer I started to feel overwhelmed by it.
How could I carve out enough time for every show? How can I choose between clones and spies and inmates and girls and broads?
That was my line of thinking.
And then everything changed:
Jason is my co-worker. He's a man who is passionate about many things yet vocal about only a select few. I made note of Jason's plea but ultimately archived the thought.
He, meanwhile, continued posting.
Jesus, I thought. This is compelling. I decided to watch.
The UnREAL thread — it was an email exchange between Jason and a few of our other co-workers who were also superfans of the show. Frankly, there weren't enough of us. We wanted to spread the message. We needed to share the UnREAL gospel.
So Jason and I, along with our friend and co-worker Dan, asked for volunteers:
And thus our journey began.
My first order of business was to find out what my volunteers thought the show was about.
Megan: It's behind the scenes of a reality show, how they really make that stuff happen.
Jana: Yeah, I think it's about showing the unrealistic part of reality shows, and then showing the real. Like real and fake in one show.
They were right, of course. UnREAL does take viewers behind the scenes of the fictional reality dating competition series Everlasting. But it's much more than that.
The writers, including co-creators Marti Noxon and Sarah Gertrude Shapiro, perfectly interweave the personal and professional lives of the show's production team with those of the contestants and its suitor, Adam. And let me tell you something, OK? Those lives are in shambles. Rachel Goldberg, played by the incredible Shiri Appleby, can barely keep it together. The series opens on her return to Everlasting after what was clearly a painfully eventful finale the season prior. Only one person welcomes her back with open arms, but Rachel does not care. She is apathetic, sleeping in a trailer on set, running low on deodorant, and living off of craft services.
That lone person who seems to care is Quinn King, executive producer and QUEEN of Everlasting.
Quinn, who rules the roost while also navigating an uncertain personal life, has her own reasons for caring that Rachel is back. After all, Rachel's self-proclaimed tendency to be a "manipulative bitch" is what makes her the producer that she is.
This show is all about manipulation. EVERYONE has an agenda: the producers, contestants, Adam, the junior production crew, random family members... I suspect even Bobo the dog has something up his proverbial sleeve.
Every character is flawed, but you still root for them. Television today is rife with the male antihero. But the female antihero? Not so much. That's another thing that sets UnREAL apart. The women drive the show.
Late in the season, Rachel declares she wants to produce "a show about women who have careers and actually talk about them," AND THAT IS EXACTLY WHAT UnREAL IS.
Marathoning the first season of UnREAL isn't a hard ask. With 10 episodes at roughly 45 minutes each, the full season runs about seven and a half hours start to finish. (Yet somehow, it took me three workdays to watch it. Oh right. I also rewatched the full season...at work. For research!)
Anyway, Kristin, Jana, and Megan committed. They committed hard.
From there, the texts poured in.
About the acting:
About major plot points I would never spoil for you:
Even random observations:
The texts were next level:
And then, almost as quickly as they had started, they came to an end...
...because Kristin, Megan, and Jana — they plowed through the season. I told you, it's not hard to do.
Satisfied that the UnREAL gospel had spread, Dan and I sat down with our volunteers to discuss their key takeaways.
Who's your favorite character?
Kristin: I love the combo of Rachel and Quinn. I think they complement each other well.
Jana: Same. I really liked the suitor.
Kristin: Oh yes. I think the turning point was the Faith episode...
All: I love Faith!
Kristin: ...that episode. I loved the whole thing. That was a phenomenal piece of acting. I loved it. I’m a sucker for people who protect other people when they’re most vulnerable. I have to say, though. Quinn is so great and doesn’t deal with any bullshit. Chet is such bullshit!
Jana: I’ve seen that in real life, though.
Megan: Yep. When someone you know is so strong and badass, and they date such dirtbags.
Kristin: I like how in the end every woman sheds their man. They just fall off of them, naked in the sun, walking along in sisterhood.
Do your post-binge opinions on the show differ from your pre-binge thoughts?
Kristin: I thought it would be all about the show. I thought it was gonna be focused on the girls, focused on the drama of the contestants. And I didn't know what to expect with the writing and acting. I didn't know what quality to expect. But it was SO GOOD. The acting was incredible, the writing was great...it was just so well-executed. It’s the kind of show where I wanted to watch the next episode every time, and I feel like that’s harder and harder for me these days. It was just great.
Jana: I was surprised the men weren’t as important. I thought there would be more love stories, I guess, but it was more about Quinn and Rachel. Defining the women as opposed to defining the men. That was so exciting for me!
Kristin: This show has a “kill your darlings” philosophy of, you know, don’t just make a ton of satisfying choices because you want people to feel comfortable. Part of me hates the uncomfortable feeling of the unresolved ending, but it makes for more interesting television and more compelling stories. And I want to know what happens next.
Megan: I felt like, OK, their lives are a little crumbly right now, but I appreciated that they didn't end on some HUGE cliffhanger. There is one, kind of, but these are just real humans dealing with life crap.
Kristin: That’s a testament to the character development. Because there’s not some crazy cliffhanger, we want to watch because we care about them, even though they’re so flawed.
Dan: In the age of binge-watching, if there are filler episodes, you’ll just watch it and move on. But when I was watching this show week to week, I was always SO excited.
Megan: When does the next season come out again?
Jana: Yeah, I need it to be now.
Watch Season 2 of UnREAL, Mondays at 10/9c on Lifetime.
All screenshots courtesy of Casey Cline and Jason Sweeten. Design by James Devogelear for BuzzFeed.