When UnREALdebuted last year, the folks behind it were a bit nervous.
"We were up here a year ago trying to prove we weren't a 'Lifetime' show," said Constance Zimmer, who plays jaded producer Quinn King, at the Television Critics Association gathering Wednesday. "We were trying to break out."
You can understand why there was some hesitation. After all, it's a Lifetime show about women managing their complicated and sometimes messy personal and professional lives, which on paper comes with a load of baggage.
What a year a difference makes. Today the show - a scripted, fictional behind-the-scenes glimpse at Everlasting, a dating competition show not unlike The Bachelor -- has gained a massive following. It's been lauded as a smart slap-down of the genre that illuminates issues - cleverly cloaked behind a superficial dating show premise.
As overlord of a slew of ladies in slinky dresses hoping to win a man, Quinn is ruthless. Rachel Goldberg (Shiri Appleby) is a young producer torn between doing the right thing and manipulating the contestants to please her demanding boss. In the process, we get a glimpse into the trickery of reality TV - and the conflicts women who want to be decent modern-day feminists face every day.
"The first season," co-creator and executive producer Sarah Gertrude Shapiro said, "was about the princess fantasy - that idea that one guy can show up and change your life and how much that f---ed us all up."
In season two, UnReal will take on race with the introduction of a black man as the bachelor, as well as the issues men face as they contend with women's power in the world and workforce.
"We're incredibly interested in talking about masculinity and how men's-rights activism plays into it," said Shapiro, who called UnReal the "female Breaking Bad."
In its second year, she said, the show needed to figure out what edgy means for it - which isn't sex and drugs, but the truth. That's led to some tense moments in the writer's room. For them though, uncomfortable is good. Having worked in advertising, fashion and TV, Shapiro said she's heard some appalling things - fodder they're baking into the show.
"In an era when driving while black is still dangerous, there are few things less important. We want to talk about things we're incredibly passionate about," Shaprio said.
UnReal's second season begins in summer 2016.