UnREAL premiere recap: Return | EW.com

TV Recaps | UnREAL

'Return'

Lifetime's scripted drama about a reality dating show goes deliciously dark.

(James Dittiger/Lifetime)

UnREAL

Season 1, Ep. 1 | Aired Jun 01

If you love The Bachelor, you’re going to like UnREAL. If you hate The Bachelor, you’re going to like UnREAL. So basically, Lifetime has done it: They’ve found the perfect show for everyone.

Okay, I’m getting ahead of myself. I’m not quite ready to call UnREAL the perfect show, but I do think they created this show just for me: It’s created by Marti Noxon of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which I love, and Sarah Gertrude Shapiro, a former employee off The Bachelor, which I also love (to hate), and it stars Shiri Appleby and Constance Zimmer, both of whom I love, love, love. And now that my fangirl gushing is out of the way, let’s actually talk about the show…

The reason it’s so good is the balance I was talking about above. If you watch Bachelor (or Farmer Wants a Wife, Beauty and The Geek, The Swan, etc. etc.), you likely watched UnREAL and thought the whole time, “Is that really true?” And if you don’t watch those shows, you probably watched UnREAL and thought, “SEE! I knew it was all fake!” I’m a little bit in the middle: I think most of the things we saw on UnREAL’s premiere are true to actual reality shows, but then it took a pretty great dark turn that I just pray people aren’t subjected to in real life.

So if you didn’t watch at all—or you watched and already forgot—here are 10 things you need to know about the reality show within UnREAL (stay with me):

1. The reality show is called Everlasting.

2. The “suitor” who all the ladies are fighting for is Adam Cromwell (played by Freddie Stroma). He is the British heir to the Cromwell hotel fortune. (Likely real-life inspiration? Season 9 Bachelor Lorenzo Borghese, an Italian prince whom we all have to thank for introducing us to Erica Rose.)

3. The “Chris Harrison” of Everlasting isn’t given a name in the premiere, at least from what I could tell, but IMDb tells us it’s “Host Graham” (played by Brennan Elliott).

4. Rachel Goldberg, played by Shiri Appleby, is one of the contestant handlers. She wears a shirt that says, “This is what a feminist looks like” and seems to just generally hate her life. She has a secret backstory, which causes everyone on set to gasp when she returns to set for the season.

5. Quinn, played brilliantly by Constance Zimmer, is the producer who yells things like, “It’s not my fault that America’s racist” and “I need 10 times more pillar candles people. TEN TIMES!”

6. Chet is the show’s creator; he also likes to yell things; aaaand he’s sleeping with Quinn.

7. There’s a camera guy named Jeremy (Josh Kelly), who has a past with Rachel. But his current fiancé is working on the show now. I foresee some behind-the-cameras drama.

8. Rachel is in competition with two other contestant handlers: Shia and Jay. Jay seems indifferent to Rachel’s return, and Shia seems to hate her.

9. The female contestants of import are MILF Mary, mean girl Britney, “horseface tearjerker… and virgin” (according to Quinn) Faith, and Brazilian swimsuit model Grace.

10. The new PA is Madison, but you don’t need to remember her name because Quinn doesn’t.

Now that that is out of the way, let’s get to the UnREAL series premiere and the Everlasting season premiere (like I said, stay with me): Just from the opening shot we learn a lot about the producing of a reality dating show. Apparently a woman named Shamiqua cannot be the first woman out of the carriage (yes, they use carriages instead of limos)—even if she is gorgeous, can play the violin, and “went to Spellman.” According to Quinn, the “first girl is out of the carriage is always a ‘wifey’ and that is not a wifey.” On the believability scale, I’d say this is pretty high.

After a few more takes, Suitor Adam decides he’s had enough and walks off. And here is where we get to see why Rachel is so good at her job. Quinn—who is clearly blackmailing her for reasons we don’t yet know—sends Rachel off to get Adam back and to get him to sign the show contract, which seems like something that should have been done by the time you’re filming the show. Anyway, she finds him sitting by a lake and pulls the ol’ reverse psychology on him. In an attempt to make it about herself losing her job, she’s able to get him to open up about why he doesn’t want the job of The Bachelor Suitor. Turns out he’s not a fan of the show and doesn’t want to ride a horse shirtless while shouting “I’m going to meet my wife tonight!” (Okay, now I need to see that on this show AND on The Bachelor.)

Through their lakeside chat, we learn that Adam has a bad public image (taking selfies with hookers will do that I guess). So Rachel suggests he use the show to help him clean up his image. “A couple of weeks on the cover of Us Weekly will do the trick,” she says.

And he’s back! Coming out of the carriage, Britney makes a big impression—by making out with him and grabbing his ass. After he meets each lady, he gives her a diamond bracelet. As “Host Graham” tells all the ladies later, at the end of the night he will “reclaim” those bracelets for those he decides to send home… and you thought not getting a rose was bad!

NEXT: Let the cocktail party (or whatever the Everlasting equivalent is called) begin

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