For 13 years, I've been a die-hard fan of The Bachelor and The Bachelorette, tuning in week after week with my squad to debate every single dramatic rose ceremony. Deep down, I always hope that it works out for the final two (fingers crossed, Kaitlyn and Shawn). But the, uh, reality of the situation is that most couples that meet on TV will sadly not end up like Trista and Ryan. And that's exactly why Lifetime's UnREAL has been such a runaway hit—especially among the most loyal members of #bachelornation.
The scripted drama, which has already been renewed for Season 2, centers around a Bachelor-like reality dating competition called Everlasting and has become one of the most addicting new shows of the summer. It has all the juicy theatrics that viewers get from watching The Bachelor, but it lifts the veil on the sly orchestration that happens behind the scenes that helps propel an intended commitment (and likely an engagement) out of two people who barely know each other.
Though UnREAL isn't a direct parody, it does feature easy-to-spot comparisons to past seasons of The Bachelor. Former Bachelor producer Sarah Gertrude Shapiro is the co-creator, after all, which lends a credibility to the series that could only come from a source inside the wacky world of reality TV. One major likeness is the insane chemistry between Rachel (Shiri Appleby), a field producer on Everlasting, and the show's suitor, Adam (Freddie Stroma), which is vaguely similar to the producer-contestant affair that happened on Jake Pavelka's season of The Bachelor (and lead to the dismissal of the producer and contestant Rozlyn Papa).
And while The Bachelor usually paints the star as wholesome and genuine (even Juan Pablo Galavis and Brad Womack started off that way), UnREAL gives us an idea of the pressure that comes with being the face of a major franchise that expects you to convincingly fall in love—and fast. UnREAL's lead is up front about the fact that he is doing the show to rehab his bad boy image and promote his businesses. And when producers push for a fairytale wedding season finale? He pushes back. "You're literally insane if you think I'm going to marry a girl I met three weeks ago on a TV show," he said in one episode.
Most of the show's storylines are admittedly more outrageous than The Bachelor (so far, there has been a suicide and lots of blackmail), but it's the eye-opening portrayal of the control that the producers have over contestants and the power of clever editing that has been the most fun to watch. "A previous contestant on The Bachelorette came up to us and said, 'This is so close, it is terrifying,'" says Constance Zimmer, who plays Quinn, the lead producer and co-creator of Everlasting. Sounds pretty real to us.
Check out the series finale of UnREAL tonight (10 p.m. ET on Lifetime) to see if Adam pops the question to one of the contestants (or runs off with Rachel instead). And to get your Bachelor fix, tune in to Bachelor in Paradise, which airs Sundays and Mondays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.