For 13 years, ABC’s The Bachelor and The Bachelorette—imitated, usually unsuccessfully, by practically every other network as well—have given us a very carefully edited version of what dating looks like on a reality series. UnREAL is here to blow the lid off that. The Lifetime drama—created by Buffy the Vampire Slayer‘s Marti Noxon, along with Sarah Gertrude Shapiro (who worked on The Bachelor)—follows the producers and crew of a reality dating show.
But don’t call it a spoof: At TCA this year, Shapiro said, “We were hyperaware of the fact that spoofs have already been done, and we put a fatwa on spoofing … The genre is already so meta at this point that it’s self referential on its own. So that really wasn’t our interest or aim. It’s a character drama, and it just happens to be set in that world.” Noxon and Shapiro said they took the reality show format featured in shows like Bachelor, The Swan, Beauty and the Geek, and Joe Millionaire, and adapted it into their story.
Their story is the behind-the-scenes drama of Everlasting, a dating show with a contestant handler played by Shiri Appleby and an EP played by Constance Zimmer. UnREAL has comic moments, but is also twisty and dark in a way you hope isn’t reflected by real-life reality shows. In this exclusive first look at the series, you can see just how far the handlers will go to get their contestants to the finish line.
UnREAL premieres June 1 at 10 p.m. ET on Lifetime.