A crew of attractive 20-something young men and women are contracted to serve on a “mega-yacht” for usually equally attractive guests on a reality television show on Bravo. This a pithy summary of Below Deck and it turns just as you’d expect from the series. All of the emotional drama is present as keeping a group of people in a fairly small space for any period of time is likely to make them snap at each other sooner or later. Further than that, sexual tensions run high as the crew lives for months at a time on the high sea and their tight-knit community is often assailed by new and sometimes sizzling passengers.
To Bravo’s credit, though, this is not just Jersey Shore on a cruise ship. The caveat that the cast actually has to accomplish professional tasks (and some members are more professional and experienced than others) increases the tension as limits are created between crew members and power struggles take place. Deciding who toasts the bread or asking people for favors become big issues that can descend into invective arguments. The addition of the older and experienced captain, a white-haired no-nonsense professional who won’t hesitate to call out junior crew members’ incompetence also adds to the show’s allure. It is more apt to say that this show is like Hell’s Kitchen on a boat… except that people rarely get kicked off.
That’s not to say that someone can’t get cast off of the ship. Fans will recall that in season three Leon was blamed for a fire and put on land as a result. There are rumors that something of the sort will happen to Trevor, who has been riling people up throughout season four, which is increasing the chances that Captain Lee will step in and do something. Other rumors include speculation that Ben and Kate might get back together again in the fourth season after breaking up and subsequently having a few tiffs with each other.
This is the type of drama that gives BD its high ratings among the public. It currently draws in anywhere from one million to 1.5 million viewers per episode, which is no small number. Indeed, it is almost as much as their flagship reality series, The Real Housewives of Orange County, which drew in 1.5 to two million viewers for most episodes of its 10th series according to Nielsen.
It shouldn’t matter that critics deride it as cheap reality television, drawing in viewers by showing the debauchery of the young and attractive (Rotten Tomatoes doesn’t even bother to rate it) or that the public knows it’s fluff (its 6 rating on IMBD means people see it as a rather mediocre series in terms of quality), the show is bringing in the numbers and this is definitely Bravo’s major concern.
The beauty of #BelowDeck for producers is that it can be continued indefinitely. In fact, most of the cast changes each season. Almost every cast member was different between season 1 and season 2. Just replace any crew member who’s not drawing viewer interest anymore with another bright-eyed youth and their bikini or speedo-clad hijinks along with the charms of the ocean and the wealthy life will bring in interest. Even Captain Lee, who’s been in every season, can be replaced with another gruff and serious authority figure to babysit the crew. Expect to see a fifth season.
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