A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that UnREAL is an unflinching drama that pulls back the curtain on the behind-the-scenes machinations that go into creating fairy tale reality shows. Far from being a lighthearted spoof, UnREAL has a darker tone and doesn't shy away from scenes of sexuality, drug use, and drinking. The show-within-a-show's debauched creator is shown snorting cocaine and having sex with an employee, the contestants are plied with large amounts of alcohol in hopes of getting them to act outrageously on camera, and so on. References are made to adultery, miscarriage, and domestic abuse, and the language can get salty at times, including "bitch," "p---y," and some milder curses. UnREAL doesn't shrink away from showing the harsh realities behind the makings of on-screen fantasy; however, it also explores the ethical dilemmas that come with it, making this a show worth watching and discussing with older teens.
What's the story?
How much "reality" actually goes into making our culture's favorite reality shows? UNREAL is set against the backdrop of a fictional Bachelor-style dating show called Everlasting, which features the requisite handsome suitor and a cast of contestants we've all come to recognize: the good girl, the tomboy, the MILF, the villain. UnREAL exposes the way the show's staff schemes and steers these people into making "good TV" (sex, drama, and intrigue) via misinformation, manipulation, and mind games. Young producer Rachel Goldberg (Shiri Appleby, Girls) has a Machiavellian-level talent for conniving the contestants of Everlasting to behave in ways pleasing to the network and to her aggressive and demanding boss, Quinn King (Constance Zimmer, House of Cards) -- she and her fellow producers do things such as compete for cash bonuses to see who can get a contestant to break down and cry.
Is it any good?
UnREAL is an enjoyable and sharp drama that exposes the inherent corruption that goes into producing a so-called "reality" show. The show does a great job of illustrating the way that power corrupts and how the drive to make a hit show and climb the career ladder can turn human beings and their feelings into mere collateral damage. Though there's definitely some black humor, the gritty tone and understandably complicated moral conundrums faced by the show's staffers help keep UnREAL from veering too far into parody and plants it firmly into "savvy takedown" territory.
The show paints a harsh picture of behind-the-scenes reality, but it manages to make you sympathetic to its seemingly unlikable characters by examining their flaws and how their internal conflicts about their misdeeds have a damaging effect on their psyches and personal lives.
Talk to your kids about ...
When you watch a reality show, how much can you take at face value? Do you think the cast members are behaving the same way they would in real life, or are these shows being edited a certain way to make the story more entertaining? Do you find the behind-the-scenes scenarios shown in UnREAL believable?
What kinds of values does a reality show such as the one shown on UnREAL have? What kinds of messages would a show like Everlasting be sending to viewers?
Our editors recommend
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
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