Skip to comments."Deadliest Catch": Reality TV's first on-screen death
Posted on 07/13/2010 7:03:17 PM PDT by Bratch
"I'm not gonna be here for very much longer," said Phil Harris, the hard-living captain of the crab fishing vessel Corneila Marie in a recent episode of Discovery Channel's unscripted series "Deadliest Catch." "That's a fact. I smoke and I drink. I've done every drug known to man. I mean, hell -- it catches up to you."
It caught up to Capt. Phil in January, when he suffered a stroke not long after the above statement was recorded. The show's producers were thrown into a quandary. "Deadliest Catch" is known for its commitment to reality -- in the documentary sense of the word, as opposed to the corrupt facsimile associated with the so-called "reality TV," a genre consisting mainly of glorified game shows and deranged sociological experiments. But catastrophe and suffering are innately cinematic. Even a sensitive documentarian might look at the "Deadliest Catch" camera crew's post-stroke footage and think, "This is a motherlode," then set about repackaging pain as entertainment. The task was daunting: In a genre that has captured endless humiliation, violence and other human suffering, here was reality TV's first death.
Remarkably, "Deadliest Catch" handles the captain's passing, which culminates in tonight's finale (9 p.m. on Discovery), with intelligence and taste. During this season, with the consent of Harris' family, the cameras kept rolling as the Coast Guard flew the captain to a hospital. They caught his sons (and fellow boatmates) Josh and Jake fretting over whether to cut the fishing season short or sail on. They showed doctors trying to relieve pressure on his brain by removing a piece of his skull, and his family and crewmates coping in the aftermath. At no point did the series succumb to dumb voyeurism.
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Capt. Phil will be missed. RIP
I just watched this episode. It was heartbreaking.
I usually watch the show but this is one I have no interest in.
Some months back one of the camera crew was arrested for distributing drugs and I can’t help but wonder if the addiction of Jake Harris wasn’t the result and in a round about way the stress of his son telling him didn’t contribute to Phil’s death.
Jake Anderson on the Northwestern is impressive in dealing with the things he’s gone through.
You could almost tell Phil knew the end was near when he was asking for his ‘lucky charm’. RIP Capt. Phil.
After having watched this show, I can never eat King Crab the same way again.
The discovery channel handled it very well, very respectful. Nothing to complain about. Semed like a good guy.
RIP Phil. You were one of a kind.
Slotting the show against the All Star Game was not a good idea.
I thank everyone who works hard to keep the program “real” and the men on the boats, including the camera crews and techs are as “real” as you can get.
Capt. Harris, we already miss you.
You're probably on to something. Jake was getting his drugs from somewhere, and I have no doubt that his revelation that he was an addict is what pushed Phil over the edge.
If Captain Phil had known that he was going to live so long, he would have taken better care of himself. Fair winds, a following sea, and never a lee shore.
Looks like a young Capt. Barbosa
I believe the allure of the show comes from the fact that these are real men doing really dangerous but exciting work.
Most people sit at desks all day with their only risk being that of a potential computer virus.
We have lost our sense of adventure and now live through others.
The Deadliest Catch is the modern day Jack London novel delivered via television instead of a book.
RIP Capitan Phil.