Movie Picture

How much would you go through to make it in Hollywood?

UNSCRIPTED, a fictional half-hour series from Steven Soderbergh’s and George Clooney’s Section Eight production company, captures the lives of three struggling young actors as they pursue their dreams by any means necessary, experiencing indifference, humiliation and, against all odds, occasional success. Krista Allen, Bryan Greenberg and Jennifer Hall star with Frank Langella in the ten-episode series, which features appearances by actual industry notables. The first two episodes of UNSCRIPTED debut back-to-back SUNDAY, JAN. 9 (10:00-11:00 p.m. ET/PT), exclusively on HBO, immediately following the season premiere of “Carnivàle,” followed by other episodes on subsequent Sundays.

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Blending improvisation and real life, UNSCRIPTED follows the characters played by Allen, Greenberg and Hall as they navigate the Hollywood maze, trying to survive any way they can. The experiences they face are inspired by the actors’ own stories, as well as those of executive producers George Clooney and Grant Heslov and co-executive producer Matt Adler. The dialogue actually is unscripted.

UNSCRIPTED shows how low struggling actors will go to get through the day while chasing their dreams. Although the hopes of glittering red-carpet celebrity loom large, the reality usually involves struggling to pay rent, nail-biting auditions, embellishing lackluster resumes, and relying on acting classes to sharpen their skills.

Langella stars as acting teacher Goddard Fulton, whose class is attended by the characters played by Allen, Greenberg and Hall. A tough, no-nonsense instructor, Fulton pushes them to improve their skills, while providing guidance, direction and life lessons along the way, warning that the entertainment industry will “use you up and spit you out” while encouraging his students to see beyond immediate career rewards.

As the actors scrounge for bit roles, they find themselves at arm’s reach from encounters with notable Hollywood figures. Cast members from “ER,” “Life with Bonnie,” “Yes, Dear” and “The George Lopez Show” make appearances in UNSCRIPTED when Greenberg’s and Hall’s characters land small roles on those shows.

Also featured in UNSCRIPTED are Jake Moritt, Nick Paonessa and Erik Weiner as fellow struggling actors and friends of the characters played by Allen, Greenberg and Hall.

January’s shows include:

Episodes #1 and 2

Debut date: SUNDAY, JAN. 9 (10:00-11:00 p.m. ET/PT)

Other HBO playdates: Jan. 12 (11:00 p.m.), 13 (2:40 a.m.), 14 (11:00 p.m.) and 21 (10:00 p.m.)

HBO2 playdate: Jan. 10 (9:00 p.m.)

Episode #1

The students at Goddard Fulton’s acting class include: Krista Allen, an attractive single mom who’s looking for “legit” roles after years of playing a sex kitten; Bryan Greenberg, green but eager, who’s making some headway despite a mostly phony resume; and Jennifer Hall, an innocent southerner relegated (so far) to serving as a stand-in on sitcoms.

Directed by George Clooney.

Episode #2

Jennifer gets an encouraging but vague talk from an agent; Bryan wears biker gear to a cowboy audition, then lands a bit part on “Life with Bonnie”; and Krista is thrilled to get a call-back after auditioning for a Garry Marshall movie, only to discover the filmmakers are interested in her young son, not her.

Directed by George Clooney.

Episodes #3 and 4

Debut date: SUNDAY, JAN. 16 (10:00-11:00 p.m.)

Other HBO playdates: Jan. 19 (11:00 p.m.), 20 (5:00 a.m.) and 21 (11:00 p.m.)

HBO2 playdates: Jan. 17 (9:00 p.m.) and 24 (9:00 p.m.; episode 4 only)

Episode #3

Strapped for cash, Jennifer considers selling her eggs or quitting class, but Fulton saves the day by offering her a job; a casting director exposes Bryan’s padded resume; Krista puts her foot in her mouth at a casting interview; Jennifer rehearses to play Ophelia in “Hamlet”; playing poker with established actors, Bryan oversteps his bounds; and Krista attends a dinner party with Goddard.

Directed by George Clooney.

Episode #4

Jennifer appears onstage in “Hamlet,” with the actors outnumbering the audience; to get even with Nick for horning in on his auditions, Bryan pulls a prank that humiliates his friend; Krista berates a casting director for slighting her son, only to discover she’s challenging the wrong person; with the support of a cast member, Jennifer gets a line on “Yes, Dear”; Krista tries to put together a clip reel that minimizes her “sexy” roles; and Bryan gets good news from the producers of “One Tree Hill.”

Directed by George Clooney.

Episode #5

Debut date: SUNDAY, JAN. 23 (10:00-10:30 p.m.)

Other HBO playdates: Jan. 26 (11:00 p.m.), 27 (10:30 p.m., 4:20 a.m.) and 28 (11:00 p.m.), and Feb. 25 (8:30 p.m.)

HBO2 playdates: Jan. 24 (9:30 p.m.) and 31 (9:00 p.m.)

Goddard’s old flame Diane Baker joins the class; Krista takes a leading role on a short indie film – directed by a 16-year-old; Jennifer dresses as the Statue of Liberty to promote a car wash at curbside; and Bryan finds his status on “One Tree Hill” imperiled by a contract problem.

Directed by George Clooney.

Episode #6

Debut date: SUNDAY, JAN. 30 (10:00-10:30 p.m.)

Other HBO playdates: Feb. 2 (11:00 p.m.), 3 (2:50 a.m.), 4 (11:00 p.m.) and 25 (9:00 p.m.)

Bryan gets worked up about a possible role that’s uncannily similar to his own background, and practices a disability he once had to un-learn as a kid; Jennifer exacerbates an already awkward situation between Nick and her friend Pam, then lands two new roles – a new gig at the car wash, and a featured extra on a film; Krista endures an audition with a lot of buzz in her head; and Goddard cautions the class against believing too much in that one “perfect” role.

Directed by Grant Heslov.

UNSCRIPTED is produced by HBO Original Programming in association with Section Eight and Warner Bros. Television; executive producers, George Clooney, Steven Soderbergh and Grant Heslov; co-executive producer, Matt Adler; produced by Michael Hissrich and Joanne Toll; directed by George Clooney (episodes 1-5) and Grant Heslov (episodes 6-10).