Unreal = Unreally Awful

Yes, I felt like the guy going into the chemist to buy condoms and selecting half a dozen other items he didn’t really need in the hope that it would cover up the fact that he was buying prophylactics when he fronted the sales assistant – invariably a pretty young thing. Except I wasn’t in a pharmacy; I was in JBs, my preferred provider of popular entertainment.

I’d read the review of it in the Age. As it turns out I wished I hadn’t. The reviewer must have been off in la-la-land when he viewed it. What I watched was something truly awful, appallingly boring and quite tasteless in places. But his (I figured such was the subject matter it wouldn’t have been a woman) positive and articulate review had led me to buy this travesty. The only salve was when I fronted the sales counter with it I did in fact have other product, far less lurid – product that I did, in fact, intend.

When I initially located the DVD of the tele-series on the shelves I took a step back. I almost left it in its place, I was so put off by the cover. But, I thought, as the Age gave it a thumbs up, it would be silly for me to miss out on a worthwhile few hours of entertainment because of a little embarrassment about outward appearances. Sure enough, I had to hand it over to one of JBs delightful young ladies who welcomed me to be served with a radiant smile. And she didn’t bat an eyelid at what I proffered – I even received another winning smile when I thanked her at the completion of the transaction. Phew!

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As to that cover. To the fore were three attractive people completely starkers – two young women and a guy. Their top bits were hidden by some strategically placed writing exclaiming, ‘Everyone will be exposed.’ More on that later. Across their groins they held what appeared to be mini-television devices.

And it was on my last sojourn to Bridport that I extracted the first disc and placed it into my son’s system. It was one of a selection of viewing entertainment I took up to the north-east to fill in the long hours away from Leigh, doing a gig I otherwise thoroughly enjoy. What could be better than being in that delightful village by the sea with some animals I adore? Not watching ‘Unreal’, that’s for sure.

I should have realised from the get-go and stopped after the first episode. But I kept on, doing due diligence as the review was so praising of the offering. It must get better, mustn’t it? If anything it got worse and even more ludicrous the longer I persevered. Eventually I gave up. Prior to its viewing I had been working my way through another season of West Wing (only one to go now). The contrast between it and ‘Unreal’ couldn’t have been broader. I should have known any product requiring front cover titillation to sell its wares would be below par – and this was dodgy, big time.

So imagine my surprise when, picking up my preferred Yarra City organ of the press one morning recently, I found it to be encased in a wrap-around spruiking the virtues of season two of the odious show. ‘What! They’ve renewed it!’ I was stunned. The accolades on this once august newspaper’s front page told me how much it had been loved by the critics first time around – so presumably the Age hadn’t got it entirely wrong (just me) and that it had won the Peabody Award – whatever that was. Excitingly, ‘Unreal’ was about to be fast-tracked to Stan for only $10 per month. But more surprises were in store for me. The following week’s Green Guide, in that very same paper, had a feature article on the new season – it really was getting some traction. And to my surprise it was written by a woman. She, Kylie Northover, commenced by describing it as ‘…a layered, brutal, comedy-drama exploiting the relationships of its female leads -…- (as well as) the art of manipulation, the quest for love, and even mental illness.’ Did Ms Northover actually watch the garbage dished up in the first execrable instalment? To give her credit – at no stage did she give her personal opinion of its quality. Best left unsaid.

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Now the premise of ‘Unreal’ is that it is an exposé of the background machinations that go into making a reality dating show. There seems to be a plethora of these on the box lately– the one this follows most closely is ‘The Bachelor’ franchise. But we have many to choose from. There’s ‘The Farmer Wants a Wife’, ‘Seven Year Itch’, ‘Kiss Bang Love’ and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Haven’t watched any of them, but I did love the fictional contribution on the ABC – ‘It’s a Date’. Even SBS has gotten in on the act, broadcasting Asian examples, as well as one conducted completely in the nuddy with no coverings of the naughty bits. Maybe, just maybe, if you were a fan of this genre then ‘Unreal’ may have some appeal. But I bet most, like me, would not be able to see it through to the end. Take my word for it – every aspect of this morass of a show is cringeworthy.

In the show we are voyeurs, a word I’ve chosen carefully, to the happenings making a television product called ‘Everlasting’. A range of beautiful (of course) women are gathered together at a mansion to vie, in every way possible, for the attention of a rich English twat of a bachelor. We soon discover his background is more than a bit dubious. Naturally, the production staff invent all sorts of ploys for their victims to act on to get between the sheets with their quarry, seemingly with scant regard as to how their brainwaves could play out to the detriment of the contestant. It’s all rather grubby. The selling point, it seems, for the new series is that the stud at the centre of the action is – wait for it – black.

Now, back to that cover. These days nudity, along with violence and sex scenes, are an accepted part and parcel of many of the series we all enjoy. In ‘Unreal’ there wasn’t a hint of the former, at least in the episodes I waded through. Maybe they were leaving it for the climax, I don’t know. There were sex scenes, but the actors involved were very careful to cover up and they were, in any case, well, unreal in terms of their believability – laughably so. So, was the packaging for the whole sorry affair false advertising? Of course it was just a play on words – the exposing had nothing to do with the body in this. Ms Northover claims that it is ‘…at its heart a feminist program.’ To me this show is doubly offensive for the way it manipulates its own actors and is in no way a positive take on what I understand to be feminism. Give me strength. The acts the cast are required to carry out are decidedly non-feminist.

‘Unreal’ is trash. Give it a miss.

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