Photo: Bravo

Monkey Sea

Manufactured aggro meets a micromanagement master class on Bravo's Below Deck.

I had gotten most of the way through a snarky list of alternate titles for Bravo's new drama-on-a-charter-yacht reality show, Below Deck -- Project Waterway; Real Houseboys Of The High Seas; Topside Chef; Davy Jones Takes Over -- when I realized that I hadn't made any notes for close to 15 minutes. True, it's probably the last sub-niche of obnoxious privilege Bravo hasn't yet explored (read: "made America hate even more") by putting a bunch of cameras on it, but the show's pretty good.

It got off to a rocky start with Kat and Sam, the Honor's second and third stewards respectively, discussing Sam's dog's tiny penis, and the "let's meet the human dingleberries you'll be hate-watching for the next six to twelve weeks" sequence is always a chore. But then: Adrienne.

The Adrienne type is tough for me to watch, because she, like me, is controlling; territorial; a rule-follower (and -creator) who can't stand for other people to shrug off said rules and get away with it; and a nano-manager (her "checking" with Sam to make sure Sam knows how to pour champagne so it doesn't dribble). I absolutely empathize with her giant stewards' manual and her ruler for checking that table settings are laid out correctly; girlfriend even took a class on silver settings. Adrienne also admits that it's her first season in charge, and she is "terrified. But nobody will ever know that." Except everyone watching…and anyone else with that exact personality, who's got a palm clamped over her face all, "Don't do that! I did that, it's bad! Ah gah!"

Adrienne's Queegette routine is cringe-worthy, and Sam, a rich man's Ally Sheedy (because she's like twice Sheedy's height) whose experience seems to consist of her family owning a yacht, pulls a bunch of faces and tests a bunch of boundaries, taking a nap while the rest of the crew is cleaning up, then snapping at Adrienne to "cool [her] jets" when confronted on her laziness. That's bratty. On the other hand, Adrienne poaches a modeling opportunity the clients offered to Sam; ranks on her for the nap at "family dinner"; and pouts when Aleks doesn't back her up (and since, like everyone else ever born, Aleks gets that you don't chew out underlings in front of other people, he interviews that he thinks Adrienne is a pill). They're both right, they're both wrong, and it's a whole season of this. Love it.

It's an eventful first episode aside from that, with Kat finding cocaine in one of the heads and reporting it to Adrienne, who tells hard-ass Captain Lee, who actually will turn this yacht around if people don't behave themselves back there. (That almost felt like a maritime-authority test of whether the crew would do the right thing and not jeopardize their licensing, because these dudes could not have been more obvious about wiping their noses and giggling. One guy even did it again when he thought the camera missed it.) Her higher-ups salute Kat for doing the right thing, but a few crewmates don't appreciate having lost the charter's worth of tips. Drama! CJ has an "open relationship" with his lady friend while they travel, and it's clear from the "this season on"s that he's going to fo'c'sle Sam at some point. Drama! Ben is an arrogant chef with a fire-management problem who's shown screaming in several of the previews; Captain Lee is going to get disappointed a lot; and also drunkenness and Sam smirking. Drama!

It's fun to get a peek at a world I would never see otherwise, but let's face it: the appeal is not educational. It's the Bravo spin on Road Rules: Semester at Sea, with a top note of The Endless Summer. And I almost had to file it under Get On Board!, because it's on a boat. I still think you should check it out, because blended with the cheap close-quarters drama and unadvisable champers-pounding is a longitudinal study of the Peter principle. Or at least that's how I'm justifying watching it.

For Patriot Week we ask:

How could Below Deck be more patriotic?

Captain Lee sails the Honor to Boston and the entire crew pitches cases of Lemon Zinger into the harbor.

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