The Reality Myth: life is not what it seems on unREAL

I’ve made terrible TV mistakes in the past. I once wrote a very glowing essay on this very blog after the first episode of The Affair (I still stand by my thoughts about that first episode), essentially declaring that it would likely be the next-best, must-watch, prestige drama of the season. I’ve since stopped watching the show outright, realizing that what I thought was thoughtful, smart tricks in plotting and characterization was actually, maybe just not knowing who the characters were. And that any amount of shouting couldn’t cover up not so great writing. And so I’m usually a little slow to assert my opinion about a show, I’ll wait a few episodes before saying anything one way or another. This wasn’t the case while watching Lifetime’s drama unREAL (the show originally aired last summer and I’m just catching up with it now). After watching the first two episodes I was telling anyone who would listen that the show was brilliant and unique and my favourite new thing. And then I watched the rest of the season. That’s not to say I made a mistake about unREAL – in fact, my fondness for the first season still rivals some of my favourite new shows from last year – it just proved that, in many ways like the show it skewers, it wasn’t exactly what it seemed. Continue reading