Did You Enjoy Lifetime’s UnREAL Last Night? Here Are Five More Behind-the-Scenes TV Shows


While Lifetime is typically home to reality shows and light but fun programming, such as Drop Dead Diva or Devious Maids (which just returned for its third season), the cable network delivered one of the smartest and, so far, best new shows of the summer last night with UnREAL, a somewhat soapy but incredibly energetic series focusing on the behind-the-scenes drama of a Bachelor-like reality series called Everlasting. UnREAL, which stars Shiri Appleby (Life Unexpected, Girls) and Constance Zimmer (EntourageHouse of Cards), received a ton of buzz from TV critics ahead of its premiere last night, and it turns out that all that acclaim was deserved. This is a show that’s not afraid to have a sense of humor about itself and be a little campy, but it can also be incredibly dark, like in the few moments in the series premiere in which Appleby’s Rachel uses her knowledge of the contestants’ pasts to emotionally manipulate them into providing the crew with the scenes they need. UnREAL is much more ambitious than the typical series you’d find on Lifetime, and that’s what makes it so much more rewarding.

However, perhaps what’s most interesting about UnREAL is just in fact how real many people who have worked on shows like The Bachelor or The Bachelorette are saying it is. (UnREAL‘s co-creator Sarah Gertrude Shapiro was, at one time, a producer on The Bachelor.) The series is providing an in-depth, ugly, and, for the most part, unfiltered look at a type of world that we don’t get too see that often, which made us think: what are some other interesting and entertaining behind-the-scenes TV shows? We came up with five other series, all differing in quality, that we would recommend anyone who is interested in these types of “behind the curtain” style shows. So if you like UnREAL, here are five other TV shows you may want to check out.

Studio 60 On the Sunset Strip

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip

The first of three (yes, three) Aaron Sorkin shows on this list, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip starred Matthew Perry, Amanda Peet, and Bradley Whitford and attempted to provide viewers with a compelling story about what it takes to make a successful live sketch comedy show. Studio 60, which ran for only one 22-episode season on NBC, was essentially Sorkin trying to show those who watched what went into making a Saturday Night Live style show (the live sketch comedy series within the show even aired on NBS—National Broadcasting System—instead of NBC). While viewers didn’t respond too well to Studio 60 (the show’s ratings plummeted following its pilot) and while not all critics loved it, the series’ still has loyal fans that defend the show’s quality and insist that, in this new day and age of television, with shorter episode orders and more forgiving networks, it could have been a bigger success.

The Newsroom - UnREAL

The Newsroom

While Studio 60 may have been disappointing when it came to ratings, many would argue that it’s better than the creative misfire that was Sorkin’s HBO drama The Newsroom. The series, which starred Jeff Daniels, Emily Mortimer, and John Gallagher Jr., among others, lasted for three seasons on HBO, and during those three years, it struggled to connect both with critics and an audience. The main problem with The Newsroom was that many saw it as a series that was too arrogant and preachy, as Sorkin didn’t simply take us through the process of everything it took to make and run News Night but covered actual real events in the series, including the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and the death of Osama bin Laden. Since Sorkin knew how these events played out in the actual, real world media, he could allow his characters to be “better” and have more “integrity” than those who worked for other major cable news networks. Despite this complaint, though (and Sorkin’s issue with writing smart, compelling, and capable women), The Newsroom is still worth checking out for some great scenes of dialogue and the occasional moving moment. Plus, there’s good sentiment behind what Sorkin was trying to do with this series, even if the execution was messy.



Before you go see the movie this week (if you’ll end up seeing the movie this week), make sure to check out at least a couple episodes of Entourage the TV series first. While not as specific in scope as some of these other shows, which center on fictional within-the-show productions, Entourage, at least in its early seasons, did provide a pretty accurate look at the insanity that is Hollywood and how deals between agents, studios, and actors can really go down. Similar to the darker moments of UnREAL‘s pilot, some of Entourage‘s most interesting stories involved the more corrupt side of Hollywood, and even if the show lost that edge as it continued past its second and third seasons, instead simply becoming a male fantasy about living in L.A. with your best friends instead of a somewhat realistic look into the inter-workings of the film industry, the series’ earlier moments are still well-worth watching.

30 Rock - UnREAL

30 Rock

Similar to Studio 60, although much less of a serious behind-the-scenes look than a satirical one, Tina Fey’s NBC sitcom 30 Rock focused on a group writers, actors, and producers working together on a live sketch comedy show that was depicted as airing on NBC (the series was loosely based off of Fey’s SNL days). You won’t see many people calling 30 Rock realistic or hard-hitting; the series is more farce than anything else. But if you’re looking to just be entertained, 30 Rock will definitely do that; it’s the funniest show on this list by far.

Sports Night - UnREAL

Sports Night

Our last Aaron Sorkin show and our last show on this list is Sports Night, which aired for two seasons on ABC from 1998-2000. It focused on a group of people working together on a fictional sports new show called (you guessed it) Sports Night. While similar in its premise to both The Newsroom and Studio 60Sports Night is usually Sorkin’s most praised of his behind-the-scenes series (The West Wing doesn’t really fall into that category). Perhaps it’s because Sports Night came before both Studio 60 and The Newsroom, or maybe it’s because of show’s terrific ensemble cast, which includes Josh Charles, Peter Krause, Felicity Huffman, Joshua Malina, Sabrina Lloyd, and Robert Guillaum. No matter what you think makes it so special, Sports Night is definitely worth checking out if you’ve never seen it before.

What did you think of last night’s series premiere of UnREAL? And have you seen any of these other five shows? Which are you favorites? Comment below and let us know.

[Photos via Lifetime, NBC, HBO & ABC]


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