Quick Answer: The Lifetime series UnREAL follows two reality TV producers who work for Everlasting, a fictional dating show that bears striking resemblance to The Bachelor and The Bachelorette. In fact, the co-creator of UnREAL, Sarah Gertrude Shapiro, worked as a producer for The Bachelor for many years. While she claims that UnREAL isn't intended to copy The Bachelor, the two shows share a number of similarities, from the basic premise to casting parallels to a producer-driven thirst for drama.
Here’s the set-up: a group of men or women are chosen to compete for the affections of one person throughout the course of a dramatic reality television show. You might be thinking this is the basis for classic reality shows The Bachelor (2002 - ) and The Bachelorette (2003 - ), and you wouldn't be wrong. It’s also the premise of the serialized Lifetime show UnREAL (2015 - ), which seemingly bases much of its manufactured drama on Bachelor Nation. The co-creator of UnREAL, Sarah Gertrude Shapiro, worked as a producer for The Bachelor for many years. While she claims that UnREAL isn't intended to copy The Bachelor, the similarities between the programs are undeniable. How much do the two actually have in common?
As mentioned, the two shows have an incredibly similar format. UnREAL follows two producers who attempt to make the fictional dating show Everlasting as successful, dramatic and outrageous as possible. We quickly see that Everlasting is almost identical to The Bachelor. In the first season of UnREAL, we follow suitor Adam (Freddie Stroma) as he dates an eclectic group of women. Just like the titular bachelors and bachelorettes in the real-life franchise, Adam's goal is to fall in love and find someone to marry. Even the pomp and logistics of Everlasting mimic that of The Bachelor, with the contestants on the fictional show's premiere exiting a limo one at a time to meet their suitor. Instead of copying The Bachelor's patented rose ceremonies, Everlasting has its own elimination process, with Adam simply calling out the names of the contestants who are moving forward in the competition. Throughout the season of Everlasting—and, subsequently, the first season of UnREAL—the women vie for Adam’s affections during elaborate, romantic dates planned by the show's producers. In Season 1, Episode 5, "Truth," one of these dates even takes place in the hometown of Faith, one of the contestants. As fans already know, the hometown date is a staple of The Bachelor and The Bachelorette, wherein the bachelor/ette visits the families of the remaining contestants.
Suitor Adam with one of the contestants on UnREAL
UnREAL and the Bachelor franchise even have a similar cast of characters, although UnREAL’s fictional cast is made up of actors. In the first episode of UnREAL, the producers go through pictures of all of the contestants to fit them into categorized "roles" and determine how they will market them. Certain women are labeled as "wife material," such as Anna (Johanna Braddy), or as the "villain," like the troublemaker Britney (Arielle Kebbel). This is a common tactic seen on The Bachelor and The Bachelorette, as viewers can typically discern who the producers are editing to fit the villain and "marrying type" roles. On the current season of The Bachelorette, Jordan has quickly been painted as the frontrunner for JoJo’s affections, while Chad has been branded the villain. All of these roles are vital in forming the narrative for a season of Everlasting and The Bachelor/ette. Without a completed narrative arc with specific roles filled, a season of either show would not attract viewers. Even though the main purpose of Everlasting and The Bachelor/ette may be to find love, it also has to be entertaining and keep viewers hooked.
Bachelorette JoJo with one of the contestants on The Bachelorette
UnREAL concerns itself mainly with the behind-the-scenes maneuverings of Everlasting. We follow the producers of Everlasting, Rachel (Shiri Appleby) and Quinn (Constance Zimmer), as they create drama, manipulate the contestants and fabricate salacious content. In the first episode of UnREAL, Rachel implores Adam to not eliminate drama queen Britney, mainly because she knows Britney will keep viewers interested. In this way, UnREAL confirms a real-life concern of The Bachelor/ette's fans and contestants, who claim that the producers keep certain constestants around longer than others due to their assured entertainment value. For example, on this season of The Bachelorette, many scoffed when JoJo gave a rose to Daniel, who got drunk and stripped on the very first night of the competition. Though it's certainly possible that JoJo and Daniel had some sort of off-camera connection, it's more likely that the producers played a key role in his staying, much like the fictional producers on UnREAL.
Shiri Appleby as Rachel, B.J. Britt as Darius Beck and Constance Zimmer as Quinn
Season 2 of UnREAL, which premieres on June 6th, will feature an African-American suitor named Darius Beck (B.J. Britt). This casting choice alone separates UnREAL from the Bachelor franchise, which has been criticized for its historically white selection of bachelors and bachelorettes. In the franchise's 14 years on the air, there has only been one bachelor or bachelorette of color: Season 18's Juan Pablo Galavis, who is Venezuelan. This casting choice shows that even though UnREAL may draw much inspiration from the Bachelor series, it still doesn’t mirror the series completely. Indeed, it's unfortunate that the fictional Everlasting's inclusive casting is the one thing it doesn't have in common with its real-life seed material. As we wait upon UnREAL's Season 2 premiere, we'll have to see if it continues to mirror the Bachelor franchise or if the show deviates from its not-so-subtle inspiration.