TV Reviews

Below Deck: Working reality works really well

I’ve watched a lot of TV over the course of the pandemic – but there is one show that sticks out to me: Below Deck.

For those of you who have never seen the show – here’s the pitch: it’s a reality show with a Downton Abbey Upstairs/Downstairs vibe but set on Mega Motor Yachts in beautiful locations with a focus on the crew, below deck.

I’ve talked about this before – at the beginning of the pandemic, I got a Hayu account. I work in reality TV and I love reality TV, yet I somehow never really got into the Bravo/E! reality worlds – so the fact that it took a global pandemic for me to get Hayu, well, it’s slightly ridiculous. So I dove in and righted that wrong, and watched at least a season of pretty much all the offerings – but it was the Below Deck franchise that I kept watching across the course of 2020 and into 2021.

My roommate Tessa and I watched all eight seasons of Below Deck, all five seasons of Below Deck: Mediterranean, finished season one of Below Deck: Sailing Yacht, and we’re deep into the Watch What Happens Live reunion specials and guest appearances. So we’re experts now.

There are many reasons why this show works so well, but I’m going to focus on the main three.

1. The format is great and stays fresh season over season. 

Luxury yachts are a great place to set a TV show. The yachts themselves are always beautiful. The locations are stunning – the Caribbean, south pacific, Mediterranean  – those crystal blue waters gorgeous.

The majority of the cast changes over each year and with different charter guests every two episodes- there is always a ‘freshness’ to this show that keeps it interesting.

Every season there is always one repeat yachtie – it’s similar to the Bachelor format. You’ve got to have that anchor cast member or veteran who keeps you invested in the show. That veteran baton can pass, but there is always one person holding it at any given point.

Often the one constant is the Captain. Captain Lee on Below Deck and Captain Sandy on Med make the show. They are the sensible adults in charge of the circus, hiring and firing the staff as they need to.

2. The people are fantastic and bring the drama. 

A bunch of hot 20-somethings living basically on top of each other for two months, of course there is going to be drama. Add in nights off and booze… it gets WILD.

You get friendships, bromances, romantic relationships… and enemies. People have strong feelings about each other. There are often tears, there are often screaming matches… but there is also a lot of laughter and hooking up. You get everything.

The people who cast this show are very good at their job. It’s impressive.

If you want to get deep into the people, I’ve ranked all 101 cast members. Yup… one hundred and one people have formally been apart of the cast as of this publication.

3. The show is relatable because it’s about people who work. 

I want to to the show is at it’s best when people are doing their jobs well, but that’s not always the case. Some of the biggest drama and best TV comes from when the crew members screw up.

Getting fired from the boat is not uncommon. Every season there is always a dud and watching everyone else complain about them or deal with their incompetence is half the fun. Are these people producer plants for drama – 100% but that’s ok. It’s a reality TV show. Of course there are going to be people cast to cause drama.

While working, the crew has to deal with demanding charter guests and often this also adds to the entertainment of the show.

The guests are often nuts.

It’s way more interesting to watch people work than it is to watch rich people. It’s also way more interesting to watch real people deal with the rich people.

I love The Real Housewives but Below Deck is far superior.

Season 8 of Below Deck was also particularly interesting because it was people working on a ship leading up to the start of the Covid-Pandemic. Chef Rachel had a meltdown about a guest’s demanding menu because she felt it frivolous when she was stressed about her boyfriend in Italy and the rising case counts.

If you are going to start watching the show, you need to watch Below Deck, then Med, then Sailing Yacht in that order to get started. If you want to switch it up, watch at least the first four seasons before adding in Med, and then watch at least the first three seasons of Med before switching to Sailing Yacht. There is overlap between the shows that make it that much better if you have the full context.

Below Deck is streaming on Hayu or you can watch it on Bravo.

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