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.
(Excerpt) Read more at salon.com ...
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.
I’d rather have real flawed characters than the make believe beautiful people that the entertainment industry is always pushing...
On the other hand...
for the record, I don’t admire men like the Captain....drugs, etc....but I respect that he worked for a living and didn’t deny that he lived life hard....we probably need more of his type and less of the so called Harvard “elite”...
Harvard is the center of everything that is wrong with this country; from business to philosophy by way of history. If change has to come - that would be an excellent place to start.
I really love this show and “After the Catch” as well.
I have just watched the show, and to me they are not “playing” it up, but it is more like an Irish wake.
A celebration of a friends and family members life..
The drugs were in the Captain’s past. I assume your past is without blemish?
The Deadliest Catch is the modern day Jack London novel. Our lives have become void of adventure and society short on men among men like Captain Harris. We have become just a bunch of weak politically correct lemmings.
agreed - my favorite
I have seen over a dozen commercials for this on multiple channels. This is no better than the way the John and Kate plus 8 divorse/affair was sensationalized and marketed. It is morbid, and playing on pain and suffering for money. Will they not track their ratings? Will they not increase their rates for the show? Seriously, this is a sad instance for a good show, but why do we really feel we have a part in it? I feel for the families and friends, but we are just viewers looking in the fish bowl. You are free to feel however you feel, and I feel the way I feel. I am sorry he is gone.
I worked in the Bering Sea (fish, not crab) in the late 80s. Drugs were known to be a big problem back then. The isolation, danger, boredom drove the attraction of drugs and alcohol. The cameraman would have been a convenient way for Jake to get drugs but any trip into port would have also been a handy way to maintain a drug habit. And men on those boats have the money to pay for it.
Wife just said: “last old Viking died”.... Nuf said.
Well I guess because I do not the zombie box all that much I have not seen all of the adverts on the other channels.
Thanks for the reply...
This is a great show, though one I suspected I wouldn’t like. We’re so saddened by the Captain’s death.
It made me think of my youngest brother who was a river boat pilot. Those folks work hard and some of them play even harder.It caught up with him at the tender age of 45 - much too young like Capt. Phil.RIP.
Me too, and probably a hundred radio commercials over the past week as well. They may have handled the show itself fairly well (though I must admit being uncomfortable with the boys fighting on camera and the shots of Phil in the hospital toward the end)but the endless commercials had all the charm of a wild west undertaker selling glimpses of the gunslinger's corpse for a nickle.
Somewhere inside of him, subconsciously, he knew the end was coming soon. I’ve seen something similar happen with a family member.
Can't imagine the slippery cold deck of a fishing vessel and a nose full of coke would go well together.
Thanks. I really thought that was one of my better shots of the night.
I was the webmaster for that bar so I took a whole bunch of pictures that night. Everyone who was there wanted a picture of themselves taken with Captain Phil. He accommodated them all and extended the stop far longer than had originally been planned. (Unfortunately, I completely forgot to have someone take a picture of me with him.)
He really came across as a genuine, down-to-earth guy. There was no pretentiousness about him.
Flawed, indomitable, human;
Well - we were kind of talking about the captains and they don’t slide around on the deck too much. Some boat captains who were known to drift into traffic while not answering their radios for extended periods of time or say, for dragging a stabilizer arm down the side of a huge processing vessel that was sounding a collision alarm were, coincidentally, those with a reputation for ‘partying’. When the large processing ship was unavailable for a period of time, the smaller ‘party boat’ would sail into the donut hole (a politically contested, roughly circular area in the fishing grounds where no fishing was permitted) or off to the side of heavy traffic areas and set it’s drift lights and then even the crew got to ‘have fun’. Of course it’s extremely dangerous as even a good day in the Bering is a bad day.
It was considered a sign that one had been ‘out too long’. By that I mean that one had spent too many extended periods of time out on the water and spent too much time around those with established drug habits. Alcohol didn’t have the same reputation, for the most part. I am sure the intention always starts out to be that drugs were to be a recreation and not used during work but those ideas sometimes get lost in addiction.
Notice that Jake was not performing well on the deck as his addiction set in - I imagine deck crewmen with drug habits are more likely to become fired, injured, or go over the side than those w/o the problem. Some perhaps use drugs to try to stay awake or keep working 24 hour shifts. SOme people live their lives on the water to forget or avoid personal problems on land only to be snared by a drug habit.