‘Below Deck’ Became ‘The Love Boat’ With a Snarky Bite

While the reality series Below Deck and the late-70’s scripted show The Love Boat are entirely different animals, they both have some of the same themes that viewers continue to find enticing today.

Ted Lange, Fred Grandy, Lauren Tewes, and Bernie Kopell
Ted Lange, Fred Grandy, Lauren Tewes, and Bernie Kopell |CBS via Getty Images

Viewers in the late ’70s and 80’s faithfully tuned in for love, a little drama, and lots of partying on the high seas. The Love Boat featured a rotating door of B-list celebrities who took on the role of the guests. The crew commanded recurring roles for years, which allowed the audience to bond and build a relationship with them.

By today’s standards, The Love Boat would be considered to be “Below Deck-lite.” Many themes and discussions were only touched upon on The Love Boat. And conflicts wrapped up at the end with a neat bow. But both series continued to satisfy viewers’ voracious appetite for escapism in luxury, especially during a time when a pandemic has kept most people at home.

Sex and hookups hit a high note on both series

The Love Boat debuted in 1977 when free love and recreational partying were at its heights. The series was an Aaron Spelling production, which meant episodes had more sexual and substance undertones, but they were certainly evident.

“Now people remember the show in a whole different reality than it really was,” Cynthia Lauren Tewes, who played The Love Boat cruise director Julie McCoy said on Oprah: Where Are They Now? TODAY reports.

C.J. Lebeau, Samantha Orme
C.J. Lebeau, Samantha Orme | Ali Goodwin/Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank

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“Which I think is funny because they remember it being this sweet, lovey show — and I remember people giving us trouble for, you know, being all about sex and free sex. ‘Cause it was about free sex,” Tewes added. “Julie never actually had any but she tried to hook people up three and four times a cruise if possible. I mean, that was her — my — job.”

While chief stew Kate Chastain from Below Deck didn’t make it her job to hookup guests, sex is definitely more of an overt, overriding theme on the series. Production has included audio of both crew members and guests getting it on. One instance included a blurry surveillance video of two guests having sexual relations on the aft deck. The crew laughed and looked on through the monitor in the crew mess.

‘Below Deck’ and ‘The Love Boat’ parties are often booze-fueled

Both series are big on “fancy AF” cocktails with The Love Boat featuring fruity blended drinks, while Below Deck came the home of the painkiller and espresso martini. Ted Lange, who played bartender Isaac on The Love Boat joked that he set up the drinks to prompt all the illicit guest hookups. “Yeah, I was getting them soused so they could do it,” he said.

Chastain joked on a number of instances that the idea was to get the guests drunk so eventually, they’d just pass out. Of course, passed out guests on the aft deck has been a problem.

Kate Chastain
Kate Chastain |Virginia Sherwood/Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images

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Chastain and second stew Josiah Carter dealt with one guest who refused to go to her cabin. She got drunk, passed out and her friends suggested the crew just let her sleep on the aft deck, which is a safety hazard. Chastain suggested waking her by spraying her with the fire hose. The guest eventually staggered to her quarters.

Both series offer a voyeuristic peek into exotic destinations

The Below Deck franchise features a different destination each season. From picturesque locations in the Mediterranean to Thailand and Tahiti, Below Deck is always going places. Captain Lee Rosbach hopes the series eventually travels to Australia. But for now, the series is back in the Caribbean.

Hannah Ferrier
Hannah Ferrier |Virginia Sherwood/Bravo/ NBCU Photo Bank

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While The Love Boat was filmed on both an actual cruise ship and a sound stage, the series allowed the audience to take a “virtual” cruise, back in the days when cruising wasn’t commonplace. “At the time nobody could afford to go on a cruise, or they thought they couldn’t,” Tewes said. “And so here, they were able to take a vacation every week. (And) a lot of people love seeing the guest stars. Especially the older guest stars.”