UnReal: The Dark Side of Reality TV and Bachelorette-Style Drama (Summer Preview)

James Dittiger/Lifetime

The ugly truths behind reality TV are unmasked in UnReal, a new scripted series that documents life behind the scenes of a fictional dating-competition show called Everlasting. But “it’s 100 percent not a spoof,” contends series cocreator Sarah Gertrude Shapiro, a onetime Bachelor staffer. (“I was there for a minute when I was 23,” she admits.) “We were adamant in the writers’ room: The secrets of reality television are interesting, but that is not a show. It’s a VH1 special.”

Instead, this inside look at the genre has more in common with the tone of HBO’s The Newsroom—and a level of raunchiness that would make even Amy Schumer blush. “Lifetime told us they wanted a premium-cable, dark show,” says cocreator Marti Noxon (Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce). “They said, ‘We will tell you if you’ve gone too far.’ So we sat down and brainstormed the most shocking things.”

And those shocking things are not just for Everlasting’s duplicitous on-air contestants, including Jericho‘s Ashley Scott as the requisite past-her-prime single mom and The Vampire Diaries‘ Arielle Kebbel as the man-hungry, do-whatever-it-takes-to-win predator. Off camera, there’s plenty of backstabbing, drug-snorting, and bitchery to go around among the overworked, cutthroat crew. Shiri Appleby (Life Unexpected) is at the center of it all as Rachel, an emotionally unstable producer dealing with her bitter cameraman ex (Josh Kelly), Machiavellian showrunner Quinn (Constance Zimmer), and Everlasting’s leading man, a British hotel heir (Freddie Stroma) with a party-boy reputation and a habit of hooking up with anybody who looks his way.

“Obviously, the drama is heightened,” Noxon says with a laugh. “The question of the day was always: Are people being despicable enough?”

UnReal, Premieres Monday, June 1, 10/9c, Lifetime