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Lifetime's 'UnREAL' finds its edge through uncomfortable truths

Lifetime's 'UnREAL' finds its edge through uncomfortable truths
Shiri Appleby, left, and Constance Zimmer appear during the "Unreal" panel at the Lifetime 2016 Winter TCA. (Richard Shotwell / Invision / AP)

For Lifetime's sophomore series "UnREAL," there's really no such thing as getting too real.

The show, which begins production on its second season in March, aiming for a summer premiere, follows the behind-the-scenes action of "Everlasting," a reality television show with a decided similarity to ABC's "The Bachelor."

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But beyond the reality show facade, "UnREAL" really revolves around a single relationship between TV producer for "Everlasting" Rachel Goldberg (Shiri Appleby) and mentor executive producer Quinn King (Constance Zimmer). Goldberg and King's friendship and working relationship is fractious and ferocious, yet they're bound together by their shared struggle of being women in an unforgiving industry.

"It's basically a female 'Breaking Bad,'" said "UnREAL" co-creator Sarah Gertrude Shapiro Wednesday at the Television Critics Assn. press tour in Pasadena, "It's the Quinn and Rachel show. We break their story first and figure the rest out from there."

But Shapiro isn't content to sit back and do the same old thing for Season Two of the show. For one thing, "Everlasting" will feature a black bachelor, something even "The Bachelor" hasn't managed in 20 seasons on the air.

"The first season was about the princess fantasy, that idea that one guy can show up and change your life and how much that [expletive] us all up. In Season Two, we're incredibly interested in talking about masculinity and how men's rights activism plays into it," Shapiro said, outlining season two's larger themes.

Co-creator Marti Noxon added, "What we're interested in now is sexual politics."

Shapiro said that it was fun to watch a bunch of white women try to talk to everyone about race and explained how for "UnREAL" edge doesn't come from exploitation but from exploration.

"Part of it is defining what it is to be edgy in our world. And it's telling the truth to the point where we're really, really uncomfortable."

"UnREAL" Season Two will return to Lifetime in the summer. Season one will be available to stream on Hulu on Feb. 3.

Follow me on Twitter at @midwestspitfire.

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