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Anyone else feeling that summertime TV slump? I thought so. I get pretty creative with my viewing choices this time of year. I stumbled on two options that should keep you occupied for AT LEAST a week, depending on your binge rate. Mine can get borderline obsessive, so you might get two weeks. Either way! I have a temporary cure for that summertime sadness Lana Del Rey likes to whine about … that clearly refers to TV show droughts.
First let me explain why I picked these two shows in particular to toss your way. I NEVER see anyone talking about them. I am desperate to have someone to gush about them with. My newsfeed is all, “I hated the Orange is the New Black ending” and “I’m outraged Sense8 was canceled…wait I’m happy it’s getting a 2 hour ending!” All valid conversations, but these shows are just as good. Not to mention they both have BADASS, strong, female-driven casts. We need to be supporting this, ladies! We live in a post-Wonder Woman world now! Let’s keep up the momentum.
The first show I would like to present for your binge watching pleasure is UnReal. I know what you’re thinking. A Lifetime series?! I know, because I thought the same thing. If you’ve seen one murderous nanny tries to replace mommy story, or misguided teen accidentally becomes an escort story, you’ve seen them all. Hear me out! Are reality shows your guilty pleasure? Ever wondered how they create all of that drama you consume hungrily with a pint-sized side of Ben and Jerry’s? This is a fictional look at the underbelly of the reality TV world. It follows young producer Rachel Goldberg (Shiri Appleby) as she throws morality to the wind in order to manipulate cast members of Everlasting (a fictional dating show similar to The Bachelor) into cooking up all the crying, kicking, screaming, and sexing reality show fans crave. The series is based on the real-life experiences of co-creator and former Bachelor producer, Sarah Gertrude Shapiro. Check out more about her story in this article from The New Yorker. I know I should not be surprised by the lengths people will go for a modicum of fame anymore, but I’m appalled and enthralled all the same.
Keep an eye on supporting actress, Constance Zimmer, who plays Quinn King. Quinn is the executive producer of Everlasting and essentially Rachel’s mentor. Anyone else watch Entourage? Yep. She was a badass in that too, but her role as Quinn King would destroy Dana Gordon faster than Ari Gold can drop another F bomb. She will make you love every minute of hating her. She is the puppeteer and everyone else is merely a string to be pulled at her will. Rachel is her favorite weapon to deploy on unsuspecting cast members when the story is getting a bit stale. The viewers need more blood? You want to start a cat fight? Launch the Rachel. Need to sex things up a bit in the hot tub? Launch the Rachel. Rachel may be a master manipulator, but Quinn is the supreme mega master. In my opinion Constance Zimmer was robbed of an Emmy in 2016 when she was beaten out by Maggie Smith (who I also LOVE, but come on) for her work on Downton Abbey.
What I like most about UnReal is I never really know who I’m supposed to be rooting for, or if I’m supposed to root for anyone. Nobody has emerged as a clear heroine. They’re all absorbed into this world of scandal and manipulation, and they are really good at navigating that world. The “real” world is harder for them to live in, so they’ve created their own “Unreal” one. Right when I think a character is showing signs of guilt and about to grow a moral compass, they get sucked right back into the dirty laundry cycle. I am every bit as addicted to their world and all of the nasty little games they are playing as they are. I can’t wait to see who manipulates her way to the top.
Are you more of a Champaign bubbles than dark chocolate kind of gal? I get it. I straddle that fence, and I’ve got a show for you too! Mix up a “dopplebanger” (seriously, the show has its own cocktail), hop over to TV Land, and binge on Younger! This series follows 40-year-old Liza Miller (Sutton Foster) as she attempts to break back into the world of publishing after putting her career on hold to raise her daughter. She quickly discovers times have changed, and rather than crashing on the shore under the millennial wave, she gets in touch with her inner 26 year old … and manages to lie about her age to get a job. As you can imagine, she has a few things to learn if she’s going to keep up this façade.
And what a beautiful façade it is! If you’re like me you just read that plot summary and thought, “I’m barely 30-something and I couldn’t pass for 26. STUPID!” Yeah well, not all of us get to be Sutton Foster when we’re 40. If Younger doesn’t work out, or Broadway won’t have her back (she has a couple of Tony Awards so I think she’s safe), she is perfectly poised to make a fortune selling any skin care product of her choice. If I find out she is bathing in the blood of baby seals, I will be tempted to try it.
Let’s talk about the rest of the cast. First we have Liza’s roommate and #1 helper in maintaining her cover, Maggie, played by Debi Mazar. Maggie is the little devil sitting on Liza’s shoulder driving her into this tangled web. Although it gets Liza in some trouble, Maggie is still the kind of girlfriend we all need. Sometimes we need that bad-ish influence to push us to spread our little butterfly wings and become the people we’re too scared to be. Hanging on Liza’s other shoulder is a familiar face for anyone who remembers the Lizzie McGuire era of Disney, Hillary Duff. Duff plays Kelsey Peters, Liza’s co-worker whose friendship buds over the course of several episodes, and as their friendship grows so does Liza’s guilt over not sharing her little secret. Kelsey also allows us to see Liza’s struggle with her new younger persona, and her motherly instincts wanting to kick in every time Kelsey gets a little too drunk, or fights with a boy.
I enjoy this show because it is breezy and fun and hopeful. It doesn’t make me feel like trash for being human, like almost everything else I see these days. Younger is relatable. I’ve got a few years to go before I hit 40, and a few months before I become a mother, but I can see what’s coming. On the other hand, I’m not so far removed from my 20’s that I’m still mourning them. Much like Liza, I’m increasingly perplexed by what the kids are into these days, and find myself wondering if I have finally reached that moment where the rest of the world starts moving on while I stay stuck in the past. Younger gives me motivation to stay connected! Who knows when I might need to pass for 26? I’m learning a lot from Liza, mostly to moisturize twice a day.
You can find the first 2 seasons of Unreal on Hulu. Sadly season 3 had been pushed back to 2018, which gives you plenty of time to catch up! The first 3 seasons of Younger are also available on Hulu. Season 4 just started on June 28. By my calculations if you get your binge on now you’ll be caught up just in time to blast through all of the episodes of season 4 around the time it wraps up. Happy viewing!
If you have your own binge-worthy suggestions, PLEASE drop them in the comments.
Current Obsessions: Someone at the University of Arkansas thought she had spent enough time and money there to give her a literature degree. She probably deserved it, but growing up in the autocorrect age, who really knows anymore? She is on an eternal quest to find the next book or television series that makes her put down social media for 15 minutes or more. Follow her on Twitter @nikkithump1
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