By Pat Reynolds
For anyone who has made their way around Del Rey Landing (also known as the fuel dock), gazed up at the massive mega-yachts and wondered what’s going on in there, I have a TV show for you — and it happens to star a boater from Marina del Rey.
Curiosity about what’s going on with these towering vessels is exactly the grist for the reality show “Below Decks,” which will soon air its second season on the Bravo network.
In the standard reality-show recipe of casual romance, sassy insolence and young attractive people partying, “Below Decks” hits all the prerequisite marks. Upon the backdrop of exotic locals in an insanely opulent yacht, a camera team documents the crew of M/V Honor, a 164-foot luxury charter vessel that commands more $200,000 for a week’s rental. There is a never-ending supply of toys and onboard amenities, and the wealthy clients receive five-star service 24/7.
While these elements act as the basic skeleton upon which the show is built, the entertainment lies in how these crewmembers behave when the clients are away. Here we see what happens when a small group of twentysomethings and one paternal captain live in tight quarters for enough time for drama to bake and be served: They sleep with each other, fight, misbehave, get wasted, bond, argue, rehabilitate, get wasted, laugh together, and, if time allows, maybe learn a life lesson and get a tip from a client.
Aleks Taldykin, 27, who grew up in Marina del Rey, is first officer under Capt. Lee Rosbach and is portrayed in the show as a somewhat serious professional who is often at odds with his demanding elder statesman. Taldykin seems to be part of and not part of both camps all at the same time. By virtue of his age, he relates to his youthful crewmates, but his occupation dictates a more mature demeanor. Through the prism of the edit, Taldykin is cast as a straight character who is trying his best to move forward in his career and take the helm of the mega-yacht sooner rather than later — if it weren’t for that dastardly ol’ captain who has more lessons to teach.
But what is the reality behind the “reality”?
Taldykin, who has run Elite Yacht Management in Marina del Rey for the past seven years, was certainly interested in being part of the show and went through considerable effort to land a spot. However, it wasn’t lost on him that reality television can make a mockery of people in the name of entertainment and that he would have absolutely no control over it. The young captain isn’t a young greaser from New Jersey whose main focus is perfect abs. He’s a professional with a reputation to protect.
Taldykin said he was satisfied overall with how the show turned out and definitely happy that it garnered over 1.8 million viewers in its final episode, he originally thought the show would to portray the industry in a slightly more serious way.
“It’s my career. I’m not trying to be a goof-off on television. I was looking to show the world what it’s like to be in the yachting industry and how fun it is,” Taldykin told me.
“The editing process was the most stressful part of my life. I didn’t know how they were going to crop it,” Taldykin said his apprehension about how he would be portrayed.
But, in the end, “I was happy,” he said. “They couldn’t really twist what I did because I didn’t really mess up that much [but] I do wish they showed a little more humor on my end.”
There are some within the industry who fear a show like this will reflect poorly on charter companies — giving an impression that behind the elegant, upright posture and clean pressed uniform of a yacht’s crewmember is a half-cocked nomad that will soon be creating a scene at the local watering hole.
In an interview with The Triton, a publication for yacht captains, Capt. Rosbach cautions that the show is first and foremost entertainment.
“It’s TV,” Rosbach said. “You can put as much lipstick on it as you want and you can call it a reality show, but it’s entertainment. It’s not made in a documentary fashion to reflect what it’s really like. Why everyone takes it so seriously is beyond me.”
For Taldykin, anxieties persist. He is in a holding pattern, waiting to find out if he will return for the second season. He expects to but says final casting decisions haven’t been made. But with any luck he will set sail on Jan.14 for another five-week passage through the unchartered waters of “reality” TV.
To stay up to date with Taldykin, follow @captaleks on Twitter and Instagram.