I DEFY you to name one character on TV this summer, male or female, who has brought it quite as hard as Shiri Appleby on the new Lifetime series UnREAL. The show itself is pretty good, and deeply self-referential in a way we really respond to around here. And amidst a sea of blonde, busty babes is Appleby’s Rachael Goldberg, a character who can’t be bothered to bathe, brush her hair, or generally give a crap, yet still somehow manages to make ratchet to so, so right.
I’ve responded to this performance in a way I usually don’t. In fact, I’m almost uncomfortable with how strongly I’ve identified with Rachael. First, I need to mention that I own this exact outfit…
I’m also usually in various states of dishevelment, although I have never managed to pull it off quite like Shiri Appleby can. That’s a gift, people. To take a look that is default for most women and turn it up to ten without lifting a finger. It’s nice to see a female character that is allowed to be sexy on her own terms. I bow to her.
It’s also nice to see a woman in TV who’s admired, not because she’s pretty or charming, but because she’s good at what she does, even if that happens to be mass manipulation. Not that Rachael isn’t pretty or charming (some people just walk in the light) but the people on this show rely on her, and defer to her in a way we almost never get to see on TV. If you haven’t see UnREAL, consider this your call to action. This is the performance to watch this year, and if Appleby doesn’t bag herself an Emmy nom, then we live in a world devoid of justice.
Sometimes I think I might not feel guilty enough about my guilty pleasures. I won’t hesitate to tell someone that I love America’s Funniest Home Videos because watching a dog/grown man fall into a bathtub is HILARIOUS. I also have no compunctions about admitting that I’ve watched Frozen twice since, like, yesterday. So why then do I feel so reluctant to disclose to the nine people who read this blog that I happen to be the most rabid Drop Dead Diva fan in creation? Does it have anything to do with the fact that it airs on Lifetime? No friggin’ doubt. It’s kind of hard to take yourself seriously when your favorite show is preceded by a made for TV movie starring Kristy Swanson and immediately followed by an all new episode of Devious Maids. Or it might be because DDD‘s idea of an exciting guest star is Joan Rivers or Wendy Williams as a saggy expert witness or a sassy judge (respectively). Whatever the reason, I’m usually pretty loath to tell people that watching this show is how I like to spend a Sunday night.
The premise is pretty standard Lifetime fare. Aspiring super-model Deb dies in a car crash and is reincarnated as a plus sized lawyer. Cue the lessons on body image and self-acceptance, right? Well, yes and no. Part of the show’s charm is that it tricks us into thinking that we haven’t seen this all before. It easily could have veered toward preachy and instead gave us a super cool heroine that likes herself as she is. As I write this I realize how much it really sucks that this is a novel concept.
Oh, and it’s hysterical. Balls to the wall droll. Absolutely worth a binge watch, especially now that Netflix is streaming all five seasons. So go grab a Gatorade, call in sick, and make me proud!