Below Deck Blows The Love Boat Out of the Water in All the Right Ways

Who doesn't love The Love Boat? That would be anybody under about 65, boomer. Breaking it down to brass tacks, this tacky lido-deck try-hard "comedy" not only didn't age well, but it was never good, to begin with. That's right, it's another round of "classic sitcoms that are actually problematic" with a side of "here's how Bravo's Below Deck does it better."

For starters, The Love Boat is cheesy, over-acted, and melodramatic for the sake of comedy, which it usually fails to achieve. All antiquated 70s swinger vibes aside (especially the name), the actual plots on The Love Boat range from pointless to goofy to plain manufactured – not to mention the endless boatload of guest stars that were for sure blatant ratings grab. It's like the show wanted to accomplish a similar tone to the dramedy of M*A*S*H* but somehow forgot to make it serious or speak to the human condition.

Below Deck Blows The Love Boat Out of the Water
Image: The Binge YouTube Screencap/Bravo

Romance and relationships on the show exist largely as sexist, chauvinistic stereotypes played only for comedy. And for a show that literally has love in the name, there's not very much quality love shown onscreen. It tries to be wholesome and heartfelt, sure, but it just comes off as poorly-written tropes and cheap laughs cheaper than the leisure suits worn on the show.

Another sea-faring cruise dramedy that accomplishes everything The Love Boat attempted to is Below Deck. Yes, yes, this is Bravo's "reality" program, but it is heavily produced (like most all reality shows) and accurately and comedically follows guests and crew of a luxury yacht cruising various tropical locations. Captain Lee is affable and paternal to his young crew (who are hot and largely single…which creates more romantic tension than The Love Boat could ever set a laugh track to), and the drama, hijinks, heartbreak, and hookups of Below Deck are the exact tone and notes The Love Boat should have hit.

Below Deck (original flavor, nothing against Med, Adventure, or Sailing spin-off shows) focuses on the crew, with the charter guests playing more of a "guest star of the week" role, but to great effect. Each 5-star dinner party has unique elements for the different guest requests, which often causes scrambling and creative shenanigans below deck amongst the staff. Add in the perfectly-cast crew who are hot and single, and bam! Reality shows are this generation's counter to what the moldy-oldie sitcoms were to the boomers, gen x, and millennial generations of old.

The Love Boat is all (questionable) style & no substance, whereas Below Deck has both polished and wild party style as well as heartfelt emotions from the real lives and experiences of the cast. Entertainment has come a hell of a long way since The Love Boat first set sail in 1977, and it's a good thing: Below Deck is the jewel of any and every ocean it sets sail upon.

The Love Boat is available to stream free on PlutoTV, while Below Deck is airing on Bravo TV (and streaming on Peacock) and just kicked off its 10th season.

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About Eden Arnold

Eden enjoys watching baking shows with her cat, and they have lots of opinions about television (as well as movies and everything else). She puts this to good use along with her journalism degree and writing experience with by-lines over the years in newspapers, magazines, books, and online media outlets. You can find her on Twitter and IG at @Edenhasopinions.
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