At one point in time, I was hooked on the Discovery Channel documentary series Deadliest Catch. The show featured the cinema verite lives of Bering Sea crabfishers as they braved the wintery storms of Alaska’s waterways to haul millions of dollars worth of king crab, snow crab and Bairdi crab for our tables.
The show was an intense watch. And viewers identified with the captains and crew of all the boats – the Hansen family that ran the F/V Northwestern, the grizzled Hillstrands of the F/V Time Bandit, the gruff Captain Phil Harris of the F/V Cornelia Marie, the hard-luck but determined Colburns of the F/V Wizard, and the deckhand-to-boat-captain story of Jake Anderson (now piloting the F/V Saga).
Trust me, this was Tuesday night destination entertainment for me.
And then, for me, it stopped. It stopped quickly.
The first few seasons of DC were shown as if everything was in real time. If it happened, it happened on film. The storylines wrote themselves. Even when one of the captains passed away (Captain Phil of the Cornelia Marie), it was treated with solemnity and reverence on the show.
And then came the allegations that some seasons’ storylines were staged. Scripted. Planned out. And it just felt … well … less than authentic. But such shenanigans could be overlooked. I mean, how many times can you tell the story of whether the boat pulls a biomass of opies or a few stragglers?
Then came the arrests.
And we’ll start with Elliot Neese. Neese captained a couple of boats – he originally piloted the F/V Ramblin ‘Rose, then he went to the F/V Saga. But Elliot had a drug problem. And Elliot had a wife-stalker problem. Every time he was on the show, his attitude and the dialogue was just straight-up cringe. He did a couple of drug rehab stints, but when he finally gave up the captain’s chair, it was just a relief for all viewers.
Phil Harris’ son Jake Harris also had substance abuse issues. During Phil’s final season with Deadliest Catch, several episodes focused on Jake Harris’ personal addictions, even to the point where he was caught stealing his father’s prescription medication for his own personal use. He was essentially squeezed off the show.
I get it. It’s a hard life on the Bering Sea. You’re dealing with pain and injury almost every day.
But then came the sex abuse charges.
And we’ll start with Edgar Hansen, the deck boss of the Northwestern. The Northwestern was one of the more popular boats on the show, with Captain Sig giving viewers an intimate understanding of crab fishing and boat operation, to the point where he was actually training his daughter Mandy to one day run the ship.
Meanwhile, in 2018 Edgar Hansen pled guilty to sexual abuse of a 16-year-old girl. He received a year’s suspended sentence and paid a fine – and he’s still on the boat, although the Deadliest Catch film crew carefully film around him so that he doesn’t appear in any TV footage. For all intents and purposes, the show’s engines are self-repairing.
Meanwhile, over on the Cornelia Marie, Phil Harris’ other son Josh – who co-operates the boat after his father’s passing – has also been edited out (and presumably released from his show contract) after a 1998 arrest report surfaced. This 1998 arrest report – which can be found at this link – explains that Josh Harris was arrested for forcible sexual contact on an underage girl. Trust me. Very underage. Ugh.
No. I’m sorry. I can’t watch the show any more. Not even the reruns.
Trust me, this is not unusual in “scripted” reality TV shows. There’s always something hidden in a reality TV star’s past that, should it be revealed, would completely torpedo the program. Do you remember a show called Sons of Guns? That was a Discovery Channel show that featured a family who built their own firearms for law enforcement. The show lasted three seasons, but quickly disappeared when one of the main characters was arrested on charges of forcible rape.
And when shit like this happens, you can’t watch the show again without thinking, “Oh, that’s the guy who raped someone as soon as the crew stopped filming,” or “That person’s three episodes away from when she had her drug overdose and was kicked off the show.” This isn’t what people want to see in a show like this. We want to root for feel-good stories, not watch total cringe moments.
After Josh Harris’ arrest was made public, I made my decision. Deadliest Catch was no longer “destination television” for me. No. I can’t do it. I’m sorry. Just straight-up no.
Trust me, it was a good show while it lasted. But it was a good show that couldn’t outlast its stars.