AT our place, complacency is ocean-going; when we can't be bothered, we watch Below Deck - the most buoyant of all the reality TV shows.
The series is approaching a decade in production, no mean feat in a sea of similar workplace-based shows which often sink only a year or two after their maiden voyage.
The series was first made for the Bravo network back in 2013, it has millions of dedicated viewers and has spawned several spin-offs; Below Deck Mediterranean, Below Deck Sailing Yacht and even Below Deck Down Under, signalling its popularity in Australia.
To which particular Below Deck you are drawn probably says something about your personality. Our favourite is Below Deck Mediterranean, it tends to be the most reliable vessel for bad behaviour, classic reality TV stuff; sex, tantrums, falling over.
We've been watching the current season of Below Deck Sailing Yacht and it hasn't scratched our itch nearly as much. I suspect this is because, as the name suggests, this version involves a boat with actual sails, big ones, which means the level of competency on board is such the crew members have less time for side-eyed infighting because they must often get their jobs done at a 45-degree angle.
We're hanging out for the seventh season of Below Deck Mediterranean, which premiers on BINGE on July 12. As usual, it will be helmed by Captain Sandy Yawn, an epauletted vision of big teeth and positivity. When I learned Captain Sandy had kidney cancer, I was rattled more than I should have been. But that's Captain Sandy for you, she gets in.
Each of the Below Deck flotilla navigate a similar route; they're all about the "yachting" industry. Like fashion or film, organic farming or journalism, the "yachting industry" is a lot less glamorous than it sounds. While the very word "yachting" may conjure images of eternal sunsets and exotic ports set to a Hall & Oates soundtrack, in truth "yachting" is about hard work, frayed emotions and irritable people (did I mention journalism?).
Any reality TV show worth its salt knows the key to maintaining an audience is through drama (real or confected) and the brilliance of the Below Deck formula is that the drama comes inherent because wherever there is a class divide, the human messiness of the seven sins will surely follow - to this end, Below Deck is really just Upstairs Downstairs on water - the seven sins on the seven seas.
Downstairs is the crew. The crew generally comprises 20-somethings tumescent with hormones, ambition and a surprisingly evolved work ethic. It can't be any accident that within the racial and socio-economic make-up of these kids there seems to be a vivid throwback to a couple of centuries ago when the nautically enhanced superpowers of the globe were abusing the very waters the sleek superyachts of Below Deck are now cruising.
Almost exclusively, the crew members are white and, if not American or British, hail from the colonies; Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Canada. While this composition certainly speaks to the much-lauded adventurous spirit of Aussies and Kiwis, it's also hard to not hear the distant, sinister echo of a time when people and paradises were being taken advantage of.
Mike White's prickly, stand-out series of last year, The White Lotus, traded on this exact concept - the guilt and nausea of privileged people being waited on hand and foot by the downtrodden, whose homes and cultures have been appropriated to feed the appetites and whims of the few.
Which brings us back to Below Deck, and upstairs, where we find the "guests".
Headed by a particularly baleful individual identified by the crew as "the primary", the guests generally hire a superyacht for a three-night "charter", then sit back and expect the crew to entertain them, feed them and ply them with enough alcohol to have them rolling around the deck, four sheets to the wind, singing sea-shanties within three hours of high-heeling up the gangway.
Sometimes, the guests will invite the captain to share dinner with them; an invitation the skipper accepts through gritted teeth. The only more onerous request on Below Deck is when a guest wants the big inflatable slide to be erected off the side of the ship. Someday, someone will be keelhauled for this.
As babysitters go, the crew are mostly magnificent and munificent. They cook (so many dietary requirements) and swab and polish and iron sheets (while on the bed) and drag tables up cliffs and build fires on beaches, all to make the guests happy and to give them an experience they'll never forget.
When the guests are farewelled, often with hugs of genuine affection, all hell breaks loose and the crew are shuttle-bused to shore, where they get drunk in the nearest gaudy nightclub before returning to their moored palace where they jump in the hot tub and do things to each other which they'll regret the next morning.
In this way, the $100 million-plus superyachts featured in the Below Deck franchise can be viewed as highly sophisticated receptacles for vomit, but they have to earn their keep somehow.
All this structured stoicism and hedonism, this extreme work followed by extreme play, is made possible because of the massive tip - a fat envelope stacked with cash - left by the guests before they disembark.
The tip is divvied up and distributed evenly to each crew member. It usually comes out at between 1000 and 2000 euros each. That's 2000 euros for three days' work and often the reason the crews keep coming back for more punishment.
Plundering the high seas is still alive and well.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.