Is ‘Below Deck’ scripted or real?

Below Deck has become the newest breakout reality show. Making its debut on Bravo in 2013, the show quickly built up a loyal fanbase, especially when it became available via streaming. And this fandom has only grown with the release of the ninth season late last year.

However, many fans have wondered if Below Deck really gives a glimpse into the real world of yachting, or if it is a scripted show that is totally fake. Here is everything you need to know about the hit series. 

What is Below Deck about? 

Below Deck is a reality show that follows the crew who work and live on a massive superyacht during the charter season, serving and caring for the guests who travel on the gigantic boat. These crew members, referred to as yachties, work and play hard, leading to plenty of romance, drama, and chaos. 

Is Below Deck scripted? 

Below Deck isn’t scripted like a drama or sitcom. It is a reality show that shows the day-to-day tasks and events that the crew goes through and the resulting drama that often ensues. However, like most reality shows, it isn’t a totally accurate depiction of reality.

While there isn’t a script, the production team socially engineers situations to create issues and drama. And they edit the footage to create a narrative, even if that narrative might not be accurate to the actual events that played out. On top of this, the situation shown on Below Deck isn’t a totally authentic yachtie experience. 

In an interview with the Mirror in 2020, Ben Robinson, one of the show’s cast members, said:

“It’s a TV show, they like drama and they like relationships. Real yachting, you don’t focus on the small dramatic snippets. Everybody is just trying to do their best. With a lot of these people, there isn’t much respect of rank. That wouldn’t happen normally on a yacht.”

In a feature from the New York TimesNoah Samton, the senior vice president of current production for Bravo, explained more about how the show operates, especially when it comes to starting drama. He notes that: 

“People who aren’t on TV are pretty good at keeping drama behind closed doors. We’re really good at finding the people who are going to wear it on their sleeves.”

An article in The Tritona publication aimed at boat captains and crews, digs deeper into this in an interview with Capt. Lee Rosbach, the actual captain of the M/Y Cuor di Leone, the boat seen in season 1. He explains that the boat’s real-life first officer and engineer remain on the ship to operate it, while the rest of the crew is made up of people from other vessels. And these people have different amounts of experience. 

Rosbach explained that this did cause issues during the filming: 

“The producers of the show wanted to show the long hours and the stress of yachting, but most of that was caused by the crew being inept. On a 50m charter boat, they were all way over their heads. A couple of them tried really hard and they might have made good entry-level crew. I’m worried people will think this is what happens on a 50m charter yacht.”

Before going on to add: 

“But it’s TV, you can put as much lipstick on it as you want and you can call it a reality show, but it’s entertainment. It’s not made in a documentary fashion to reflect what it’s really like. Why everyone takes it so seriously is beyond me.”

The publication also talked with the show’s co-executive producer Rebecca Taylor. She explained that the crew was made up this way because: 

“The original crew was perfect, but in the television world, there’s all kinds of reasons you can’t do that. It’s almost impossible to find a real functioning crew and step on with cameras and say go. Just because you have the perfect crew doesn’t mean you don’t have a convicted felon or someone with anger issues who’s going to punch the cameraman. All that matters to us in TV.”

So, while Below Deck doesn’t follow a script, it isn’t a real glimpse into the true life of a real charter crew. However, that is just the norm for reality television, so it shouldn’t come as too much of a shock to long-term fans.