Reality AF: Every Below Deck Franchise, Ranked

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Reality AF: Every Below Deck Franchise, Ranked

Editor’s Note: Welcome to our Reality AF column, where Terry Terrones checks in on the state of reality TV in its many forms.

I know what you’re thinking. If this is a ranking, one of these Below Deck iterations must be terrible. 

WRONG. Below Deck is like pizza, and there’s no such thing as terrible pizza. Whether it’s for a late night snack or because it’s the only thing you have left in the freezer, there’s been plenty of times when even a supermarket brand frozen pizza has perfectly hit the spot. 

That said, much like pizza, franchises of Below Deck vary greatly in overall quality, taste, and style. Some versions go down smooth but only really serve to satiate your appetite, like a Tombstone or a Red Baron. Yet other, more refined, pies will have you licking your lips like you’re at a California Pizza Kitchen. So what’s the secret recipe?

Three key ingredients make for an excellent Below Deck franchise: a steady captain viewers would love to work for, a chief stew with a ton of attitude, and a knowledgeable bosun with a mischievous side. If you have these three things, a Below Deck season will be a winner no matter the locale, whether you’re on a sailboat or a motor yacht, and even if the rest of the cast are duds. 

Although the Below Deck family is going through some transitions after Captain Lee’s departure and Captain Kerry from Below Deck Adventure filling his spot, with the excellent Below Deck Sailing Yacht returning April 10, now is the perfect time to rank Bravo’s most underappreciated series. Continuing with the pizza analogy, each franchise will be rated on a scale from 1-5 pizzas. 

5. Below Deck Adventure (1 season)

Ranking: 🍕🍕

Synopsis: Set in Alesund, Norway, Adventure features thrill-seeking charter guests on the luxury yacht Mercury looking to push their limits for an unforgettable experience along picturesque landscapes rich in Viking history.

Highs: Captain Kerry came out of the gate strong in his first season. The charismatic Australian is unafraid to fire a terrible deckhand or call out an out of control chef. While he can be intense, Kerry also knows how to have fun. The Norwegian setting also makes it stand out compared to its contemporaries. 

Lows: Most of the crew is either boring (Bosun Lewis), folds like a tent under pressure (Chef Jess), or has a Cockney accent more grating than Dick Van Dyke’s in Mary Poppins (Chief Stew Faye).

Why it deserves its ranking: Captain Kerry is likable and the setting is cool, but more drama from the crew is required. 


4. Below Deck (10 seasons)

Ranking: 🍕🍕🍕

Synopsis: Set on the island of St. Lucia, with crystal-clear waters and dramatically tapered mountains, the Pitons are sure to excite even the most discerning guests aboard the 197-foot yacht, St. David. The series has also previously filmed in French Polynesia, the U.S. and British Virgin Islands, the Bahamas, Saint Martin, and Thailand. 

Highs: The franchise that started it all has had a tremendous run with The Stud of the Sea, Captain Lee, at the helm. This OG has provided some of the series’ biggest moments (Ashton getting caught in a tow line, Rocky stripping and diving off the boat) and some of its most memorable characters (Chief Stew Kate, Bosun Eddie, Chef Ben).  

Lows: The latest Below Deck season proves it’s a franchise in transition. With Captain Lee and Chef Rachel leaving, Chief Stew Fraser and Captain Kerry will have to carry a heavy load when the show returns. 

Why it deserves its ranking: The loss of Captain Lee is huge. 


3. Below Deck Down Under (1 Season)

Ranking: 🍕🍕🍕 1/2

Synopsis: Set against the backdrop of the tropical Whitsunday Islands and the Great Barrier Reef in northeastern Australia, this Peacock Original series explores the complex, often explosive dynamics of the crew and a rotating group of demanding charter guests on M/Y Thalassa.

Highs: After appearing as a second stew on Below Deck Mediterranean, fun loving and always upbeat Aussie Aesha Scott moved up to chief stew and proved she had what it takes to not just lead but go toe-to-toe with arrogant Chef Ryan. Captain Jason ramped up the series’ sex appeal, a boatmance led to drama, and a fun cast made for a good first season. 

Lows: For some inexplicable reason Down Under is relegated to Peacock and doesn’t air on Bravo. Hopefully the network corrects this error. 

Why it deserves its ranking: A second season of Down Under has already been filmed and should premiere later this year. This new franchise is on the rise.


2. Below Deck Mediterranean (7 Seasons)

Ranking: 🍕🍕🍕🍕

Synopsis: In its most recent season, Captain Sandy sailed the 163-foot motor yacht Home to the stunning waters of Malta, one of the smallest and most historic archipelagos in the world. 

Highs: The latest season of Below Deck Med was LOADED with drama. A bosun (Raygan) was quickly fired because she was in over her head, there was constant bickering between Chief Stew Natasha and second stew Natalya, and two different boatmances wreaked havoc on the entire crew. 

Lows: Deckhand Zee is a nice guy but he doesn’t make for compelling TV. 

Why it deserves its ranking: The drama surrounding Natasha, not just with Natalya but with Chef Dave AND her ex-boyfriend, was unprecedented. 

1. Below Deck Sailing Yacht (4 Seasons)

Reality AF: Below Deck Sailing Yacht's Kissing Bandit + What to Watch This Week

Ranking: 🍕🍕🍕🍕🍕

Synopsis: Captain Glenn and his comeback team of Chief Stew Daisy, First Officer Gary, and Chief Engineer Colin resume their roles along with a new crew on the sailing yacht Parsifal III. This time setting sail in Sardinia, Italy. 

Highs: This franchise has it all: A lovable, easy-going captain, a smartass chief stew, a funny engineer, and a randy bosun who once kissed four different women in one season. Throw in the adventure that comes with the unsteady nature of a sailboat, the “will they, won’t they” sexual tension between Daisy and Gary, the pot stirring prowess of Colin, and you have a franchise that never fails to deliver. 

Lows: Could Sailing Yacht live without Daisy and Gary? Let’s hope we never find out. 

Why it deserves its ranking: Check out this excerpt for the upcoming season from a Bravo press release: “On deck, strong personalities collide, and a power struggle results in a near mutiny as Gary clashes with his new overconfident deckhand, Chase. Two overlapping love triangles further complicate the dynamics onboard, and a shocking hookup puts Colin, Daisy, and Gary’s friendship in jeopardy. With a near collision, fire, crew rebellion, gruesome guest injury and two different potentially season-ending engine failures, this is the most captivating and unpredictable season yet of Below Deck Sailing Yacht.”

Sign. Me. Up. 

Terry Terrones is a Television Critics Association and Critics Choice Association member, licensed drone pilot, and aspiring hand model. When he’s regretting not working on a yacht when he was in his 20s, you can find him hiking in the mountains of Colorado. You can follow him on Twitter @terryterrones.

For all the latest TV news, reviews, lists and features, follow @Paste_TV.

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