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On the border of mockumentary and drama, Unscripted focuses on the
lives of three struggling actors without the glamor and fake tension
found in Hollywood or reality shows. The only connection between the
three actors is an acting class they all attend, though they each go on
their own acting endeavors.
The struggling and determination of what the characters go through truly touched me. Unscripted records the odyssey these people go through to make it big, from numerous dead end auditions to making ends meet. Instead of the actors discussing the latest Hollywood flick they starred in, they converse about the latest walk on role they had or which show hired them as a stand in. It isn't as cut throat as Greenlight, and truly allows the viewer to get in depth with the character and feel the struggle they're going through.
Many actors say they got into acting because it's "like therapy." Just
as many would-be's quit because the process hits too many nerves.
I had never seen, or even heard of this show until after a three day search for something worthy on any of my 500 channels to watch, I stumbled onto it in my HBO "On Demand" fare. I figured I'd give it a shot and watch an episode. Well, I was delighted with the season opener, and went back for seconds. Completely addicted by the third, I viewed the entire season over a period of a week.
I recognize nearly every character in the program as a stock personality that inhabits the cruel and unapologetic world of acting. I studied acting for five years in Washington, DC, worked a couple of paying theatrical gigs, and moved to New York. I continued with classes here and worked in four films and a play my first year out. Frank Langella's character is the male embodiment of one of my "most respected" acting teachers, (an abusive tyrant, but if you could get past that, you could learn a thing or two.) I agree with absolutely everything he tells his students. Goddard's anecdotes are real, his caveats to be heeded, and his teaching points valid.
I have known more than a few "Krista Allens," pretty, sexy women who got boxed into a stereo-type early on and spent years trying to bust out of it. (Forgive the pun.) New York and L.A. are overrun with the likes of Jennifer--sweet, honest, naive young girls who want more than anything to act, make their mark, and be loved.
Every actor in training will meet their share of "Brians." He IS talented. He IS basically a good guy. He IS self-absorbed. He WILL get a plum role. He WILL try to "keep it real," and he WILL tick off his buddies, use women, and charm who he needs to help him keep on course. Such is life.
Anyone who has a remote interest in acting for film and/or television should watch this show. It might save them from being surprised or caught off guard at some point. Beyond being a quick course in thespian politics, it accomplished what most good movies, plays, or shows do-- Made me laugh. Made me cry. I don't really care if it's scripted, improvised, or fed to the players on cue cards. The resulting product is fresh, engaging drama. I am stunned by some of the hostile and negative comments on this thread. If this show "offends" you, look inside yourself. Or better yet, take an acting class. It really can be like therapy.
I couldn't help but be drawn into the drama of the lives of three
struggling mid-range actors as they experience the ups and downs of
life in Hollywood. While I've read critiques that say their modicum of
success makes the show unrealistic, I find it all the more fascinating
to see how the lives of these actors change as they fluctuate in and
out of Movieland's Pergatory.
The story of the down and out actor who crawls home with his tail between his legs has already been told, as has the story of the actor who goes from rags to riches, but the in-between state in which these men women function is something altogether new to me, and I find it far more fascinating than the hyperbolic drivel that the other extremes present.
The dialogue in this show is real, and frankly perfect. The story lines are beautifully subtle, the imagery is exactly what it needs to be, and the cameos provide the final ingredient that make this quite possibly the finest television drama I've ever seen.
Network: HBO; Genre: Comedy, Docudrama; Content Rating: TV-MA
(profanity, mild simulated sex); Available: DVD; Perspective: Cult
Classic (star range: 1 - 5);
Seasons Reviewed: Complete Series (1 season)
George Clooney and Stephen Soderburg's Section Eight production company hits a home run on just their second try. "Unscripted" follows in the reality-bending mold of their faux political docudrama "K Street": real people play themselves improvising in fictional situations shot around real events and injected with other actors playing characters. Got all that? "Unscripted" takes this neo-classic format and gives us three people at the center of it that are so endearing, they take it to the next level. What was before just a technical feat to be admired in "K Street", is now an emotionally wadded experience to be loved in "Unscripted".
"Unscripted", in every frame, is about stars Krista Allen, Bryan Greenburg, and Jennifer Hall. It captures the plight of a young, idealistic actor struggling to make it in this bizarre world of Hollywood with more insight and empathy than any other show. The Hollywood of "Unscripted" isn't glamorous, where the burning desire to act goes hand-in-hand with a daily gauntlet of humiliation.
To make sense of it all is Goodard Fulton (Frank Langella), the hard-nosed acting school teacher, defining pretension, whose many priceless monologues about every high and low of the soul-consuming "craft" of acting serves as a sort of narrated tour guide to keep his students surviving the Hollywood machine. He tells his students the only way they will be able to do this will be if they "can't not do it".
Bryan Greenburg looks like he is on the fast track to stardom. Having a brush with fame on "One Tree Hill" and "Life with Bonnie", he later lands a starring role and a trip to New York in the Meryl Streep/ Uma Thurman movie "Prime". At the coaxing of his roommates he pads his resume and uses his daily life as a training ground to immerse himself in a limping, stuttering character for a role. But what happens to those friends if Greenburg hits it big?
"She's just so green" says a casting agent about Jennifer Hall. The adorable singer/songwriter of her 2-chick band Black Liquorish, Jennifer's credits include a line on "Yes, Dear", a brush with Keanu Reeves as a "featured extra" and playing the statue of liberty on the corner of Liberty Car Wash with more gusto then you can imagine anyone else in the world doing.
The biggest revelation here is Krista Allen, whose storyline involves a quest to become a real actress despite the reputation of being in "Emmanuelle" ("the James Bond of soft core movies") hanging over her head. There is a sitcom element to the stories of Greenburg and Hall, but watching Krista Allen I became completely convinced I was seeing a documentary - to the point where you have to step back and remember that Allen is playing herself, not being herself. Allen is subject to some particularly stinging humiliation, which results in her taking a role in a 16-year-old's backyard film. While much of this is motivated by the chance to strike back at a Hollywood that won't take her as anything other than a sex object in a 2-piece (the men around her are shown to be pretty creepy), Allen's "character" is a dichotomy that doesn't see using her sex appeal (which includes an affair with Goddard) to get what she wants as undermining her mission. A series highlight is when an enraged Allen tells off a casting director who told her 6-year-old son that he was "not funny". Krista should be proud of this show. This is great work by any standard.
Other actors and would-be actors in Frank's acting class include "Tru Calling's" Jessica Collins, Jennifer's increasingly close friend "Dragon" who fights actor outsourcing ("Why did 'Lost in Translation' have to take place in Japan", he asks), and Nick Paonessa who steals Bryan's contacts and accidentally finds himself in a genital warts commercial - a bit that on any other show would be purely sitcom stuff, but here is so well played it gets the biggest laughs of the series. If anything "Unscripted" recalls the UK masterpiece "The Office", a show that finds laughs in total humiliation and refuses to allow its characters a victory until the last possible second.
George Clooney (who has proved his classic directorial skills on the big screen) directs the first 5 episodes and Clooney regular Grant Helslov, picks up the last 5. They do one hell of a dynamite job. Each episode is constructed masterfully with an assemblage of audio and video that looks like a documentary and doesn't feel linear. It is a sitcom for people who hate sitcoms. You might call it organized chaos, which at first might not look like it knows where it is going and then brings itself into focus. Where "Street" was foggy, aimless, distant and pretentious, "Unscripted" is sharp, clear, thoughtful, fluid and heart-felt.
"Inside Hollywood" shows are a dime a dozen, particularly on HBO. From the scripted wish-fulfillment series "Entourage" to the day-to-day documentary "Project Greenlight" to the celebrity behind-the-scenes cameos of "Curb Your Enthusiasm". "Unscripted" is the best. The best. The only flaw here is that it didn't last long enough to really flesh itself out. I watched the 10 episodes slowly, trying to savor everything, not wanting it to end as soon as it does. The mind wonders what a few more years of Goddard speeches would be like.
It is the rarest show that you don't just enjoy watching every episode, but instantly want to watch them again. That, and a desire to know what is happening with the "characters" after the show was cut to an end, is about as high a compliment as you can give a series.
* * * * ½ / 5
I've seen the first four episodes of unscripted and i think this is a
great new format for TV series. I'm really into the series, very
Soderbergh's style, the colors in the background with a lot of yellows
and blues, great story with so many very funny but credible moments
like the one with Krista yelling in the wrong office with Sam Mendez or
Jen sitting in Brad Pitts chair and asking Limon if he was involved in
the movie (He is the director of Mr. and Mrs. Smith). Frank Langella is
a fine actor and his performance so far i've seen is flawless. Krista
Allen, Jennifer Hall and Bryan Greenberg show the tough life of young
actors trying to make his own way in Hollywood.
It's a GREAT SERIES! another hit series from HBO.
Unlike other viewers (posting on this site), I thoroughly enjoyed the
debut episodes of "unscripted." Certainly I agree that the show might
not be on the same plane as "Larry Sanders," "Curb," or "Arrested
Development," but those shows are neo-classics. Furthermore, Clooney et
al are attempting to do something very different here than we see with
Krista Allen and Bryan Greenburg's characters are endearing, even if the other students portrayed are a bit formulaic and silly. Frank Langella's depiction of the brutally honest acting coach is riveting and entirely realistic as a portrayal of an advanced drama coach.
This is an insightful and creative look at a few of the thousands of actors on the edge of making it, and infinitely more entertaining than HBO's recent attempt ("Entorage"...and rare dud) at creating a television show about an actor who already has.
I am a working actor currently in a smaller market, and I do not live
in Los Angeles. I have done some theater and stage work this year and I
have also been very fortunate to have gotten several speaking roles in
short films and independent and low-budget films. I must say that every
time I watch this series I am amazed at the level of accuracy and
realism that this show continues to maintain each and every week.
Granted I am not yet in Los Angeles(but will be in the next year), but I have experienced a lot of the issues that this show deals with. I find that when I watch unscripted I can relate to these characters more so than any other fictional characters in a scripted drama or comedy series. Though not a reality series, the stories are based in fact on several real experiences that these actors and Mr. Clooney and Mr. Heslov have faced at some point in their lives.
I take comfort in the fact that I am not the only one to have gone through some of these things, and I find myself personally involved with what happens to these characters because their journey mirrors that of my own. I feel like I am watching a documentary of my life over the past 3 years. I also really value Mr. Langella's contribution as acting instuctor Goddard Fulton. His insightful and constructive criticism and also his belief in his students and his profession is a remarkably true portrayal of everyone one I have ever met that truly believes in the power of acting and themselves. I love this show!
For people like me and any other working actors in the United States who have access to HBO cable network, or if you're just simply interested in finding out about the process of living and working in the acting arena, do yourselves a favor and watch this show! I feel shows like this and also Inside The Actor's Studio have just as much value as a learning tool for actors studying and working on their craft and also for actors who want in on this business. If you listen to these actors and their personal experiences, you can learn a lot about the process of acting, what it takes to succeed, and maybe even get a little more insight into who you are and what it is that you want to accomplish as an actor.
Thank you Mr. Greenberg, Miss Allen, Miss Hall, Mr. Langella, Mr.Clooney, Mr.Heslov, and Mr. Adler for presenting such a wonderful opportunity to observe the behaviors, attitudes, and lessons that actors come across, deal with, and learn from on a daily basis. Thank you for telling it like it is. You all continue to motivate and inspire me week after week. I wish you all the best of luck with this series. If you have HBO, and you want to be an actor, watch it!
Unscripted is to aspiring actors ...
instead of a show about the glitter, fame & fortune (e.g Entourage or anything on the E-Channel) or a bunch of pathetic, fame-starved everyday people trying to get 15 seconds (e.g. anything reality TV show in the major networks) ...
HBO has brought us a hybrid reality show of what its really like to go into acting. the characters are never been heard of actors young and old, with a mix of some you've seen before and some you will never see again (all using their real names). the show follows the lives of the actors, and shows what its really like. its something every 16-yeard old kid that wants to be an actor should see (rather than watching the e-channel and hearing about how JLo made it). its gritty & shows how pathetic these people are (especially the people in the business). and its warning to people going into the business that probably wont be heard/observed ... kinda like Hoop Dreams
I liked the realism I felt in many aspects of the series such as the characters, dreams, situations, circumstances, interactions, naiveté, backstabbing, humor, melancholy, specific LA & NYC places, attitudes, minor successes, numerous failures, dis ingenuousness, personnel whims & proclivities, and a few more I just can't think of. I'm assuming the actor's class is somewhat typical, and if so, I felt it was done superbly. If it is not representative, then, what can I say? The acting was just great, couldn't be better.
This is an unusual show in that, while it is fictional, the actors are
actually playing themselves. Which is a little strange, since
occasionally they don't portray themselves in a particularly positive
light (one actress, for example, sleeps with her acting teacher).
Nevertheless, the show is very well acted and directed. The style is unmistakably Soderbergh--hand-held camera, sound overlapping silent shots, etc. The show incorporates celebrity cameos in a very real, organic way, rather than being jokey about it. Overall, a compelling watch.
Problem is, the subject matter is so old, that I can't imagine this show remaining fresh for more than a season. You mean, the life of an actor is extremely tough and often degrading? I had no idea! Especially because the show takes place in LA, rather than New York. In NY, actors at least do interesting things while their miserable. LA is all about going on auditions for bit parts on second-rate sitcoms, a life which I find so pointless that I have a hard time relating to people trying to "make it" in Hollywood.
Who am I kidding? Like I won't watch it compulsively ...
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