When I found myself tuning in to yet another season of another franchise of Below Deck, I had to wonder: Why am I so obsessed with watching people do their jobs, and badly at that?
All roads lead to The Office.
Bravo’s Below Deck Sailing Yacht, which is currently airing Season 4 on Mondays at 8 pm, is simply The Office, if it were unscripted and on speed. It contains all the pillars of the successful workplace comedy: An inappropriate leader who makes off-color jokes (sorry, Captain Glenn, but it’s true); a never-ending assortment of unbelievable HR violations (when you live and work in the same place, things get muddy, fast!); awkward people performing their jobs poorly (there’s always a stew who simply doesn’t understand the hierarchy); and, of course, a couple of token sensible people (Daisy and Glenn are the boat’s Jim and Pam, minus the romance).
With all of that, plus incredibly high stakes as real money is being made, real clients are being served, and real pots of chili are being dropped thanks to unexpected swells, it’s just another iteration of everyone’s favorite NBC comedy!
But Below Deck even goes a step further: It uses the workplace comedy genre as a blueprint, before completely transforming it. Here, the actual workplace is not only a container for comedy; the workplace is the comedy, as the space inhabited by the cast becomes a character itself.
In Sailing Yacht, the vessel Parsifal III is your quirky coworker who flosses her teeth with her hair or eats cream cheese with her hands. She keeps us on our toes! Parsifal is Dwight. She’s Angela. She’s even Kevin! When it comes to producing awkward, cringeworthy moments, Parsifal does it all. Whenever you feel the group dynamic slowing down, or conflict taking a back seat, or the weirdness on pause, Parsifal quickly moves in to disrupt the status quo. She brings anchor drags, dysfunctional engines and abrupt teetering that causes every plate, goblet and spoon to come crashing down in the main saloon.
Another layer? These employees never get to go home. Though we don’t often see The Office characters outside of Dunder Mifflin/related events, we know they are not trapped in the workplace. They theoretically have lives beyond our screens that add texture to their characters. On Below Deck, however, employees are constantly on the clock, sleeping in tight quarters and receiving wake-up calls from engine alarms or radio commands at any given moment. (Imagine getting a season-long slumber party between Michael and Dwight. What kind of storylines could have been invented if the two were forced to sleep on top of the printers after each day’s end? Whatever you’re picturing, know that’s what Below Deck promises and delivers season after season.)
So, if you liked The Office, it’s time to give its unofficial unscripted sister a watch.
How do you think Below Deck compares to your favorite workplace comedy? Let us know in the comments!