New York magazine
Ashton Pienaar Image Credit: New York magazine
Ashton Pienaar Image Credit: New York magazine

All Eyes On Deck

How Below Deck, a reality show pitched as Downton Abbey on a luxury Caribbean rent-a-yacht, became Bravo’s new flagship.

Amy Odell

When Ashton Pienaar fell overboard during the filming of Below Deck’s sixth season, it almost ruined the party. A Sarasota real-estate agent named Brandy had chartered the 185-foot superyacht and its crew, which are the focal point of the Bravo reality show, so she and her “wild girlfriends” could celebrate their birthdays with “tequila in their hands at all times.” But enjoying those drinks had to be put on hold after a line tangled around Pienaar’s leg and yanked him off the boat.

The rope, towing a support boat called a tender, dragged Pienaar, a former bodybuilder and exotic dancer turned deckhand, by the ankle as he struggled to keep his head above water. Deckhand Rhylee Gerber called “Man overboard!” into her radio, Captain Lee Rosbach killed the propellers, and a cameraman stopped filming to loosen the line and help rescue him.

Three million people tuned in to the resulting episode, the 11th of the season, to see reality clash with “reality” and briefly be given real human stakes.

Below Deck stars a crew of young, good-looking men and women who work for Rosbach, their exacting boss, fighting and hooking up with each other while serving the needs of entitled, often drunk guests who’d paid tens of thousands of dollars to be indulged with foam parties, 12-course tasting menus, and ungodly amounts of green juice on a floating Mar-a-Lago. (In one episode, the family that

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