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Series / UnREAL (2015)

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"Nobody does anything here to be nice. The sooner you learn that, the more likely you are to survive."
Dr. Wagerstein

Unreal (stylized as UnREAL) is a satirical drama series (often bordering on dark comedy) created by Marti Noxon and Sarah Gertrude Shapiro (based on the latter's short film "Sequin Raze"), and is rumored to be Very Loosely Based on a True Story—Shapiro's former employer was ABC's The Bachelor. It premiered on Lifetime in 2015 and follows Rachel Goldberg (Shiri Appleby), a producer on a dating reality show called ''Everlasting'' that is obviously ''inspired'' by The Bachelor.

Her skill at manipulating emotionally vulnerable contestants and extracting maximum drama is matched only by her self-loathing at having to do such a soul-killing job. In fact, the shame of having to work on a reality show pushed Rachel into a spectacular breakdown that resulted in her exit from a prior season of Everlasting, and everyone is surprised that she comes back to work in the first season. Her boss Quinn (Constance Zimmer) understands that everyone has a mortgage to pay and has no such self-image problems, committed to giving the people what they want and producing the best sleazy, trashy reality show possible.

The first season's edition of Everlasting involves the standard-issue square-jawed hunk, in the form of Adam (Freddie Stroma), a 29-year-old British hotelier, who is appearing on Everlasting despite his better instincts in an effort to drum up publicity for his Napa Valley resort. Contestants on this season of Everlasting include Brittany, the standard-issue hot blonde with deep psychological issues cast for "the bitch"; Grace, the standard-issue sexy swimsuit model; Faith, the standard-issue shy and pious virgin; Anna, the lawyer struggling with an eating disorder; and Mary, the standard-issue older MILF contestant meant to be dismissed early in the show's run.

There is behind-the-scenes relationship drama as well. Quinn is having an affair with Chet, the owner and executive producer of Everlasting. And Jeremy, Rachel's old boyfriend and Everlasting crewmember, has hooked up with a new girlfriend who is also working on the show. This background drama spawns and grows through the first season and well into the second.

Everlasting - sorry, UnREAL - then returned for another season in 2016, in spite of The Bachelor host Chris Harrison not being a fan ("...the main difference that I’ve seen is that people watch The Bachelor"). In what may be a Take That to The Bachelor, the second season's bachelor suitor is African-American (something which didn't happen on The Bachelor until 2020.). The second season's Everlasting features NFL quarterback Darius (B.J. Britt)desperately in need of back surgery, and technically unable to play with prospective "wifeys" being Tiffany, the entitled daughter of an NFL team owner; Yael, a.k.a. "Hot Rachel", who strikes up a relationship with both Jeremy and Rachel's new boyfriend-cum-midseason-showrunner Coleman, as well as being a reporter in disguise; Chantal, a half-black contestant with a dead fiancé; Ruby, the "blacktivist" who is intended to be set against fellow contestant Beth-Ann, a confederate-flag-bikini-wearing Alabama ranch sweetheart who ends up leaving the show pregnant with her ex's child. Madison has also become a producer following Shia's departure, Quinn tries to find love, and the past comes back to haunt everyone (but especially Rachel).

Now a Character Page that could use some love!


  • Abusive Parents:
    • Quinn's dad was confirmed to be this. Though never seen, he dies in the fourth episode of season 2.
    • As suspected, then revealed in season 2 Rachel's mother in spades.
  • Alpha Bitch: Quinn in spades. She thoroughly believes Rachel has the potential to be one as well and can often be seen grooming her.
  • The Alcoholic:
    • Working on Everlasting has driven Rachel to drink. Her breakdown in the previous season was an alcohol-fueled meltdown that led her to ruin a take and then engage in grand theft auto and DUI. She is constantly throwing back drinks on the set during filming. In season 3, she's quit drinking as part of her Essential Honesty kick; she lasts all of two days before the pressure of the job has her spiking her coffee with vodka.
    • Quinn is a pretty heavy drinker as well, on a more regular basis than Rachel. Her drinking becomes more of a problem in season 3 as pressure from the network start to get to her.
  • As You Know:
    • A character makes sure to refer to Chet as "Chet Wilton, the creator of Everlasting".
    • Chet and his wife greet each other as "wife!" and "husband!" in their first meeting.
  • Back for the Finale: Britney in season 1, Ruby in season 2.
  • Big Damn Heroes: At the end of 2x05 Chet saves Rachel from being raped by a drunk and angry Jeremy.
  • Blackmail:
    • How Quinn is forcing Rachel to be on the show at the start of season 1. Everlasting pressed charges after Rachel's grand theft auto and DUI. Rachel is on probation, and if she doesn't play ball Quinn will have her thrown in prison.
    • Rachel is also being blackmailed by her bitter ex-roommate Bethany, who is possession of Rachel's laptop. After Rachel is late coming up with the money she owes Bethany for rent, Bethany sends an embarrassing email of Rachel's to the entire Everlasting crew.
  • Blackmail Backfire: In the season 2 finale, Rachel thinks she's dealt with Coleman as she's found out that the "sex workers" in Coleman's award-winning documentary were paid extras and thus his whole career is based on a fraud. Coleman still intends to go through with his plan to expose the truth behind Everlasting and tells Rachel he's ready to admit how he faked the documentary and use the knowledge to show how he knows first hand how faking lives works. When Rachel says he'd never risk his career like that, Coleman smugly points out that any damage on his reputation will be offset by exposing the show and Rachel realizes he's right.
  • Bookends: Episode 5 begins with Rachel masturbating to porn and failing to get off. It ends with Rachel masturbating to old videos of her and Jeremy, and achieving orgasm.
  • Break the Cutie: Rachel does this to Britney in "Return" to get dramatic footage of her after her elimination. In the Season 2 premiere, she coaches Madison to do the same to Chantal.
  • Butt-Monkey: Several. Shia, Madison, and especially Graham all come to mind.
  • Career-Ending Injury: Darius has one, which is the real reason he's agreed to be on the show.
  • Career Versus Man: A repeated theme with both Quinn and Rachel.
    • Quinn's relationship with Chet holds her back professionally.
    • Rachel finds herself in three different relationships with men (Jeremy, Adam, and Coleman) who ask her to sacrifice her career to be with them.
  • Cat Fight: Episode 3 ends with a cat fight between Anna and Grace that was brought on by Rachel telling Anna lies about gossip Grace is supposedly spreading.
  • The Chessmaster: All of the producers, especially Rachel who "can do anything".
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Despite also working on Everlasting, Lizzie is never seen or mentioned again after breaking up with Jeremy - despite Jeremy apparently recommending her to replace him in his role as director of photography.
    • Shia disappears after the first season, and Madison replaces her as an assistant producer. Quinn briefly mentions Shia in passing in season 3 but her absence is never explained.
  • Cliffhanger: Used a few times, most notably with 2x10 — did Jeremy kill Coleman and Yael?!
  • Coitus Interruptus: Rachel walks in on Grace giving Adam a BJ. Quinn later walks in on Naïve Newcomer Madison giving Chet a BJ.
  • Coitus Uninterruptus: Quinn is barking orders to the crew via walkie-talkie during sex with Chet.
  • The Conscience: Jay tries his hardest to serve as this to Rachel in Season 2, but it doesn't work out for him. It has also led to some fans claiming he's a hypocrite for lampooning Rachel when he essentially did similar things in season 1.
  • Crazy in the Head, Crazy in the Bed: After Rachel's big Freak Out in the first finale Everlasting, the cameraman jokes about Rachel to Jeremy (Rachel's boyfriend at the time), telling him that "Crazy in the head, crazy in bed, right?" Jeremy isn't amused and just sucker punches him.
  • Cute and Psycho: Madison looks like a sweet and meek kid, complete with Girlish Pigtails, but as shown in the season two premiere, she's got some...issues.
  • Cynical Mentor: Rachel to Madison in season 2.
  • A Day in the Limelight: Both on the show and the Show Within a Show — Faith takes the spotlight in "Truth," which sees her visiting her hometown with Adam in tow.
  • Deconstruction: You will never look at reality shows the same way ever again after watching this series. Everything said on-camera within Everlasting has been carefully edited and influenced by the producers, with a lot of the used soundbites taken way out of context. UnREAL also emphasizes how ratings-driven reality shows are, with good ratings being used to justify anything and everything the producers do to the hapless contestants.
  • Decoy Leader: In season 1, Chet is officially the showrunner, but everyone knows that he's an incompetent, drug-addled pushover and that Quinn is really in charge.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Jay.
  • Discreet Drink Disposal: Mary pours out her champagne.
  • Downer Ending:
    • Adam doesn't get to marry anyone, after some calculated manipulations by Rachel. Jeremy publicly breaks up with Rachel after she left him for Adam, only for the latter to back out at the last second. Rachel realizes the only possibility of her having a future is with Quinn.
    • Discussed by Quinn: "Oh, he does get an ending. It's just not a happy one."
  • The Dragon: Rachel, to Quinn and according to Quinn too.
    • Madison to Rachel in Season 2
  • Driven to Suicide: Thanks to Shia tampering with her anti-depressants and Rachel bringing her abusive ex-husband for a visit, Mary kills herself in "Fly".
  • Drowning My Sorrows: Jeremy sinks deep into alcoholism in season 2.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Jay isn't 'evil' but in season two his conscience begins to weigh on him and he declares there are things he is unwilling to do, a stark contrast from Rachel in season two.
  • Establishing Character Moment: "Romance, love, I don't know, it's all a bunch of crap anyways", says Quinn in her first scene. Rachel for her part is introduced wearing a T-shirt that says "This is what a feminist looks like."
  • Everyone Has Standards: Quinn, by her own admission, isn't above horrible moves and using people to get attention for the show. But even she has to draw the line when Rachel arranges for a woman to attack the man who raped her, stab him in the crotch and press for the cameras to make sure "you get all the blood."
  • Everyone Loves Blondes: Seems to be a recurring theme in the show, where the blonde is often designated as the pure, lovable 'wifey' from the start of the show. We have Anna and Tiffany, and the woman seen in the 'Rachel freakout' video. As this is UnREAL, this trope has been consistently deconstructed in various ways.
  • Evil Matriarch: Rachel's mother is a horrifying example, as it is revealed that she covered up Rachel being raped by one of her patients when she was twelve just to save her own practice, and claimed she would treat Rachel herself, which often involves drugging her up. In season 3, it's revealed that she's extended this to her father as well after he couldn't deal with not being able to protect his daughter.
  • Failed a Spot Check: Madison coming to Quinn and Rachel for help after Beth-Ann has supposedly locked herself in the bathroom. When Rachel shows up, it turns out Madison didn't even bother trying to turn the door-handle first, earning a literal, word-for-word "What an idiot!" from Rachel.

  • Fanservice: "Dresses down, boobs out!" says Quinn to the contestants.
    • Mary ends "Truth" by dancing in her underwear, saying "Mama's still got it" to herself. Het male/lesbian/bisexual viewers who remember Into the Blue or Birds of Prey (2002) (Mary is played by Ashley Scott) are likely to agree.
    • Invoked in Season's 2 "Ambush" when Quinn has returning guest Adam wear tight swim shorts during the hot tub party. Invoked In-Universe as well when the camera lingers on his butt.
  • Flag Bikini: Beth Ann sports a confederate flag-patterned bikini.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: At this point it seems like a long-way off, but Madison seems to be shaping up to be this. Confirmed, as pretty much the entirety of her character arc this season is shaping up to be this trope. She's a quick learner.
    • Jeremy in season 2.
  • Girlish Pigtails: Madison. Technically, she has braids, but the point still stands stands. Quinn even refers to her as Pippi Longstocking.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Rachel and Quinn.
  • Hide Your Lesbians: invoked In "Truth", when Faith takes Adam to her hometown, she confesses to Rachel that she's in love with her best friend. While she resolves the conflict with her Christianity and wants to come out on the show, her lover doesn't want to be outed due to the Mississippi small-town mentality — as she tells Rachel, "Does Matthew Shepard ring a bell?" They keep their secret.
  • Hypocrisy Nod: Throughout season 2, award-winning filmmaker Coleman talks about how Everlasting and reality shows are horrible and fake and wants to "redeem" Rachel from them. In the season finale, Rachel reveals how Coleman's ex-girlfriend told her Coleman hired downtrodden extras to be "sex slaves" for his documentary. "So you're as full of shit as we are."
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: All the episodes have one-word titles until #2.10, "Friendly Fire". Titles in each season follow a specific theme or motif.
    • Episode titles in the first season refer either to the theme of feminism and the traditional roles of women ("Wife", "Mother", "Princess", possibly "Savior") or else the driving action of the episode ("Return", "Relapse", "Truth", etc.).
    • Episode titles in the second season refer to the theme of war ("Ambush", "Insurgent", "Friendly Fire" "Geurilla", etc.).
    • Episode titles in the third season refer to psychological terms ("Transference", "Projection", "Codependence", etc.).
  • Immoral Reality Show: While it doesn't have contestants getting murdered like in most examples, Everlasting is still portrayed as morally bankrupt, Lowest Common Denominator garbage, especially as we see how the hot dog is made.
  • In-Series Nickname: Yael as "Hot Rachel." Has gotten to the point where it is pretty much the only thing Quinn calls Yael. Chet refers to Rachel as "little weirdo", and to Quinn as "kiddo".
  • Intrepid Reporter: Yael.
  • Intro Dump: The contestants are identified as they emerge from the limos one at a time to meet Adam.
  • Jailbait Taboo: Implied with Madison, though her exact age is unknown. Later exploited by Quinn to try and get Madison to press charges against Chet for harassment after she gave him a blowjob.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Pretty much every character in the show has a prominent dark side, both those working on the show, and those cast in it. Behind the scenes they are given moments to show they are as much victims of circumstance as they are soulless manipulators in it for themselves.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Jerk: Even though most of the characters are complex (albeit with few redeeming qualities, they are at the very least a Well-Intentioned Extremist), the more you learn about Coleman the more it seems he really fits this.
  • Just Following Orders: An underlying theme of the show. The network and its higher-ups want ratings and don't really care how they're obtained, which contributes to Chet and Quinn's often-reprehensible methods of making "good TV". In addition to her general berating and producers only having a job in the season so long as "their girls" are in the race, she even offers cash bonuses for particularly juicy footage to encourage a dog-eat-dog mentality. This largely contributes to Shia's decision to take things up to eleven with one of her girls in the first season's climax, and her attempt to justify her actions after things have gone sideways is just short of saying she was "just following orders".
  • Karma Houdini:
    • Everlasting is largely responsible for Mary killing herself—Rachel brought her ex-husband in and Shia tampered with her medication. But thanks to some quick thinking and Rachel falsifying a suicide note, the show gets away unscathed. The only person to suffer any consequences is Shia, who gets sent home.
    • Jeremy's rape attempt on Rachel goes almost completely unpunished (apart from a beat-up from Quinn) largely because of his knowledge of the above fact.
    • Rachel doesn't get in trouble for Romeo getting shot because Quinn covers it up.
  • Klingon Promotion: Somewhat. Quinn promotes Jay after Rachel betrays Quinn, goes off the deep end, etc. Really for a lot of reasons, but the point of the matter is Jay is promoted because Quinn is in need of a 'second' after Rachel becomes...unavailable.
  • Law of Inverse Fertility: Season 2 has Beth-Ann and Quinn.
  • Les Yay: The friendship between Rachel & Quinn plays this up sometimes — Rachel is the only person that Ice Queen Quinn actively wants to be around, as well as Quinn telling Rachel that she loves her and she's perfect, though she has claimed to be allergic to feeling before.
  • Love Triangle: Rachel, Jeremy, and Jeremy's new girlfriend Lizzie. Lizzie is not thrilled to learn that Rachel is back on the show.
    • By the latter part of the first season, Rachel/Jeremy/Adam.
  • Madonna-Whore Complex: The contestants are victims of this, with virginal, wholesome contestants candidates to be a 'wifey' while the more overtly sexual girls fall prey to the "sluts get cut" trap.
  • The Man Behind the Man: Quinn is pulling all the strings, even though she's usually in Chet's shadow (or Coleman's, in season 2).
  • Manipulative Editing:
    • Anna flies into a righteous rage at the show and at Rachel in particular after the show does not tell her that her father is having heart trouble, and her father dies. Rachel edits this into something that looks like Anna had a crazy breakdown.
    • If you're paying attention, Coleman has clearly done some of this with the footage of Rachel and recording of Jeremy.
  • Marry for Love: What Darius totally wants to do and wants to choose Ruby, who he was pressured into kicking off the show earlier. Asks her, and she says they need to get away from the cameras to have a real relationship before she'll consider him (also, they've known each other 2 months.) Romeo says that they'll be poor, Jay responds that being happy is better.
  • Meaningful Name: Faith is a Christian virgin. And a closeted lesbian, which causes her some conflict in "Truth."
  • Missing Mom: Madison's mom is revealed to have died in the season 2 premiere.
  • The Mistress: Episode 2 reveals that Quinn is this for Chet. Like most mistresses, she was under the mistaken impression that Chet was going to leave his wife.
  • The Mole: Fans have theorized that Yael has ulterior motives for joining the show as a contestant, with many believing she's actually a reporter set to uncover all the behind-the-scenes horror that goes on at Everlasting. Confirmed theory as of "Fugitive."
  • Ms. Fanservice: Grace the Brazilian swimsuit model. The producers of Everlasting have to put the brakes on things when Adam is about to take Grace to his room for sex after two minutes of conversation.
  • My Beloved Smother: Rachel's mother.
  • Naïve Newcomer: Madison.
  • Not Good with Rejection: Jay falls in love with contestant Alexi and even breaks up with his boyfriend because he thinks the feeling is mutual. When Alexi dumps him (rather brutally), Jay embarks on somewhat of a vendetta against Alexi that lasts way up until the midst of season 4.
  • Passed-Over Promotion: Jay has been working at the job presumably for as long as Rachel has, however her willingness to do some dark shit at the expense of her mental sanity has led to her being promoted in season two, for however long it lasted. Averted after Quinn's return to power and Rachel's breakdown, wherein Jay is given the role as Quinn's second.
  • Pet the Dog: Quinn's sole display of a conscience. After Rachel confronts her about the blackmail and Quinn refuses to let her off the hook by dropping the charges, Quinn appears rattled. She goes to Chet and demands cuddle time.
    • In her own unique, twisted way, Quinn really does care about Rachel. She just thinks the best way to show it is to make her more like herself.
  • Plucky Girl: Madison is a dark and troubled version of this. Despite all of Rachel and Quinn's verbal abuse, she truly does enjoy working on the show and is determined to learn and keep moving up the ladder.
  • Police Brutality: Romeo is shot by trigger-happy police, but Coleman and Rachel had called the police and reported the car stolen, aware they were creating a situation in which Darius and Romeo would be at risk.
  • Pool Scene: A party with Adam, Adam's friend Roger, and some of the girls in a pool gets out of hand, especially when all the other girls show up. Clothes are shed, alcohol is consumed, and Maya apparently was raped by Roger.
  • Potty Failure: This happens to Yael during her date with Darius, thanks to Rachel.
  • Product Placement: In universe examples as the host will constantly be pushing various products for the show and the crew complaining about how cheesy they are.
  • Really Gets Around: Madison, of all people.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Taking on a "cleansing" of being honest in season three, Rachel tears into Chet on everything from how he's working off the backs of women to how he's treated Quinn, in full view of the crew.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Jay is the blue to Madison's red, as of late. She's all sunshine and rainbows as she manipulates people and as the episodes go on Jay becomes more bitter and done with everything.
  • Rich Suitor, Poor Suitor: Season 2 has Tiffany and Ruby, respectively.
  • Running Gag: The gang mocking Graham's ridiculously over-the-top introductions to events.
    Quinn: I need it written into Graham's contract that he never read books. Ever.
  • Sexy Backless Outfit: Pepper the schoolteacher wears one of these as part of her attempt to project a more adult, sexual image to Adam.
  • Sexy Man, Instant Harem: This happens frequently, given the nature of the show involves pitting hordes of women against each other to win the heart of one man. In particular when the suitor is first introduced he tends to be mobbed by contestants vying for attention.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: Madison, to the point that AD Dan doesn't initially recognize her.
  • Show Within a Show: Everlasting, a trashy reality relationship show.
  • Sleeping Their Way to the Top: Heavily hinted at with Madison, who gave Chet a blowjob after expressing her interest in moving up the ladder. Case in point, she's promoted to producer after refusing to go along with Quinn's scheme to press charges against Chet for harassment and statutory rape.
    • Madison also sleeps with Gary in season 3.
  • Sleeping with the Boss: Rachel and Coleman in season 2.
    • Also various contestants with various producers and crew members, usually in hopes it will give them leverage. Tiffany and Chet are perhaps the best example of this. Yael does a fair share of this, but her motives are to service her story.
  • Slow Clap: This is how Quinn tells Chet she found out his wife is pregnant.
  • Slut-Shaming: Even though most of the women, especially the contestants, are referred to as "bitches" and "sluts" throughout the show, the behind-the-scenes attitudes - in particular those held by Rachel - are a lot more enlightened regarding women expressing their sexuality. All of the characters seem to do a fair amount of sleeping around, and men are called out for it, too, especially philandering Chet and "man-whore" Adam.
  • Smarmy Host: Everlasting has the typical smarmy, insincere host. In Episode 4 he's shown practicing his show patter right after having sex with a dismissed contestant, right before sending her to the airport.
  • Soapbox Sadie: Ruby can't be seen without a slogan-clad t-shirt and only came on the show to broaden her activist platform.
  • Spin-Off: "The Faith Diaries", in which season one contestant Faith, along with girlfriend Amy, document their time in California with Faith as a brand ambassador for a jeans-line following her reality TV appearance. Also starring Dot Marie Jones, it is available on Canada Lifetime and also Worldwide via the network's Facebook. It aired with weekly segments shortly before season 2 started.
  • Spiritual Successor: To The Joe Schmo Show (especially Season 2, the reality dating season) and other satires of reality television.
  • Spiteful Spit: Brittany does this to Rachel after Rachel uses Brittany's childhood issues (orphaned, foster care) to manipulate her.
  • Sweet Home Alabama: In spite of Rachel's best efforts to play up southern stereotypes, Beth-Ann's family is very warm and welcoming to Darius with no hint of condescension.
  • The Teetotaler: While visiting Adam's vineyard, Mary tells him she never drinks.
  • Those Two Guys: Jay and Madison, as of season 2 with Madison's promotion to producer.
  • Token Minority: When Shamiqua, a black contestant, is the first to emerge from a limo Quinn is outraged, since the first contestant is supposed to be one of the real contenders and the black contestant will be eliminated within a couple of episodes. After Shamiqua survives the first elimination the crew laughs about how she'll be leaving in a couple of episodes anyway. Later Jay, a producer who is also black, takes the two black contestants aside and explains to them that they'll have to play up the Angry Black Woman Stereotype in order to stick around on the show. Shamiqua scornfully refuses but Athena is eager to cooperate. Ironically, Athena goes home first.
  • Twofer Token Minority: Jay is black and gay.
  • Uncle Tomfoolery: Shamiqua calls Jay an Uncle Tom after Athena acts like an offensive racial stereotype at Jay's urging.
  • Vodka Drunkenski: Russian contestant Alexi in season 3/4 not only has a cocaine problem but obviously also likes his vodka
  • Wham Line: Madison's "That was amazing!" right after throwing up due to driving Chantal to tears at Rachel's urging. You expect her to be horrified and quit on the spot, but it turns out she liked it.
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: Several of the contestants pull variations of this (or their producers orchestrate one for them) in order to gain sympathy and attention from the suitor.
  • Xanatos Speed Chess: Every episode shows Quinn and Rachel expertly manipulating everyone around them, from contestants to lovers and even network executives, into doing what they want, treating them all as cogs and moving parts. Often on the fly with a great deal of white lies and reverse psychology thrown in. Very rarely do either of them fail, even in the face of massive curveballs and time constraints thrown at them.

Alternative Title(s): Un REAL