Editor’s Note: Welcome to our new column, Reality AF. Every Monday, Terry Terrones will check in and talk about the state of reality TV, plus provide a Top 5 list of what’s coming up this week that you should not miss.
“I’m trying to teach the women to be a team, but of course Gary and his small dick ruin everything,” said chief stew Daisy on last week’s episode of Below Deck Sailing Yacht.
Another week, another opportunity for Parsifal III’s first mate, Gary “The Kissing Bandit” King, to wreak havoc as he makes his way through Daisy’s interior team like a plundering pirate, consequences be damned.
Gary, a surprisingly likable scoundrel from South Africa who looks like Tarzan and flirts as shamelessly as Austin Powers, is just one of many reasons Below Deck Sailing Yacht is appointment television. But while Gary’s antics are quickly becoming the stuff of legend/infamy (He’s smooched 4 different women this season alone, including Daisy), it’s the Below Deck franchise itself that is truly becoming legendary.
Below Deck is so popular it currently has four iterations (Below Deck, Below Deck Mediterranean, Below Deck Down Under and Below Deck Sailing Yacht,) and is about to add a fifth this fall, Below Deck Adventure, which will be set in Norway.
The reason for the show’s success is twofold. Step one: Get a bunch of good looking, mostly single crew members together and have them work in isolation. Because the series is set on a boat, they have nowhere to go, so they have to interact with each other. This leads to quickly forming bonds and, of course, plenty of scandalous behavior. It’s a standard reality TV setup.
Step two: Place the cast on a working boat serving demanding charter guests. This is what sets the Below Deck franchise apart. You can’t turn on your TV without seeing a reality show filled with attractive people, but most of the time they’re not actually doing anything but drinking, gossiping about each other, and hooking up. This quickly gets boring.
Nothing boring happens on Below Deck because the crew really have jobs and the guests change from charter to charter. To be sure, every season the cast is a good looking bunch, but they have to have skills. While an absolute cad, Gary is an expert at commanding a 54-meter sailing yacht, not an easy task. And Daisy is an expert at providing five-star service, as she’s done for years. Of course, there’s always a newbie or two every season, but they have to work and earn their place or get fired. A unique and hardworking group of captains, who’ve become celebrities in their own right, make sure high standards are met. A real life upstairs/downstairs dynamic is incredibly rare on a reality show.
The combination of traditional reality TV tropes with real life work (tips included) has led to some of the most memorable moments on television since the series first premiered in 2013. Here are just a few examples:
— Deckhand Rocky strips down to her underwear and jumps off the boat in protest after Captain Lee fires her closest friend. We later learn Rocky, who’d be fired, was having a torrid tryst with Eddie, the bosun and her boss.
— Bosun Ashton almost drowns as a rope tangles around his leg and throws him overboard.
— Chief stew Hannah hooks up with a charter guest (allegedly).
— A malfunction causes Captain Glenn to crash the Parsifal III into the dock.
And doesn’t even include the penis cake fiasco, a captain being told to go f$%K himself, and two crew members having a baby, with the daddy initially denying it was his.
Loaded with riveting moments thanks to its unique structure, every season of Below Deck, regardless of the iteration, is must-see TV.
5 Reality Shows to Watch This Week
1. Below Deck Sailing Yacht (Bravo, June 6)
Why you should watch it: So many questions abound as the charter season starts to draw to a close. Will Gary have more hot tub smooches with new stew Scarlett? Is Ashley still looking for revenge after being spurned by Gary? Will we ever learn why Daisy and Gary drunkenly made out? And most importantly, who in the world was deckhand Barnaby named after? Did someone misspell “Barney” on his birth certificate? Were his parents huge fans of the 1970s TV series Barnaby Jones starring Buddy Ebsen? The mind boggles.
2. Weakest Link (NBC, June 6)
Why you should watch it: Who still can’t believe it’s not butter? Who thinks the plural of moose is mice? Not this fan of insult-throwing host Jane Lynch in this fun trivia show, which returns from its second season hiatus tonight.
3. American Ninja Warrior (NBC, Premieres June 6)
Why you should watch it: The 14th season of this obstacle course competition kicks off with qualifying rounds in San Antonio. Some of the competitors are as young as 15! This 51-year-old will enviously watch whippersnappers take on challenging courses from the comfort of a couch.
4. Restaurant: Impossible (Food Network, June 9)
Why you should watch it: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Robert Irvine is awesome. And I’m not just saying that because we’ve been trading DMs on Twitter and I plan on writing a feature about the show the next time he’s in Colorado.
5. 90 Day Fiance: Love in Paradise (Discovery+, Season Premiere June 10)
Why you should watch it: I never saw the first season of this international relationship show but heard good things about it, so I’m diving into Season 2. I need something to munch on while waiting for the next season of Married at First Sight, which kicks off with a matchmaking special on June 22.
Terry Terrones is a Television Critics Association and Critics Choice Association member, licensed drone pilot and aspiring hand model.
When he’s not applying for Survivor, you can find him hiking in the mountains of Colorado. You can follow him on Twitter @terryterrones.
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