“Bachelor” franchise host Chris Harrison may have told Variety that Lifetime series “UnReal” is “really terrible,” but the cast and creators took his criticism in stride at a Paley Center panel on Thursday.
“It’s completely flattering,” said Constance Zimmer, who plays the aptly named, controlling producer Quinn King in the scripted series, which is based on the drama that goes on behind-the-scenes of a “Bachelor”-style reality dating competition. “It means that we’ve popped the bubble, and he’s watching the show.”
Co-creator and supervising producer Sarah Gertrude Shapiro also had a diplomatic response to Harrison’s takedown. “We were all just like a little flattered that he had watched it,” she said. “We love our show and we’re so proud of it.”
Shapiro, whose short film “Sequin Raze” inspired the Lifetime series, was previously an associate producer on “The Bachelor,” but said her time on the show had virtually no influence on how she chose to depict “UnReal.”
“I’ve been a writer since I was five,” she said. “I had a day job in reality TV, and now that’s my identity somehow. It definitely doesn’t inform what I’m doing at all. Plot-wise the show is 100% fiction. I’m a huge dramatic writer. We sat down to write basically a female ‘Breaking Bad’ and reality TV is a great place to set it. So fortunately I knew how to put up the wallpaper so the wall looked right, but that’s just about it.”
Co-creator Marti Noxon believes that the type of critique “UnReal” presents was “long overdue.” “Reality television deserved this treatment, and it’s long overdue,” she said, adding that Harrison’s reaction was no surprise. “You wouldn’t expect him to be super-psyched about our take on reality television.”
“I will say we do have a character who plays a host, so …” she joked. “But we already showed the host character being pretty despicable in his own right. That’s not based on anything though — we were just playing around.”
Still, despite a general “all publicity is good publicity” attitude, actor Josh Kelly, who plays Jeremy Caner, a member of the behind-the-scenes team, had a sterner message.
“His argument was unfounded,” Kelly said. “It’s just not true. Our show is doing well and has been seen by a lot of people, and so it’s fine. I hope he just keeps watching and he’s open to watching us and liking us and knowing that these guys are all awesome and we’re not trying to ruin his show.”
(Pictured: Executive producer Marti Noxon, actresses Shiri Appleby and Constance Zimmer, and executive producer Sarah Gertrude Shapiro)