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Reality Check: 'Deadliest Catch' keeping it real after all these years

Emily Fehrenbacher
Discovery

The end of the Alaska legislative session is always a special time. 360 North provides constant coverage of various committees and floor sessions, but my favorite is always the live stream coming from the hallway of the second floor of our majestic Capitol. Legislative aides, pages, journalists, lobbyists, citizens and legislators themselves gather here to stare into the camera, flash notes to their families and perform elaborate "accidental" falls. It is the purest form of reality TV, and it always brings joy to my heart to watch a bunch of stir-crazy politicos get their five seconds of "fame."

Now for a more mainstream topic: "Deadliest Catch" began its 10th season on Tuesday. For nine years and seasons, we've followed the Time Bandit, Northwestern, Cornelia Marie and their foul-mouthed crews on the high seas. "Deadliest Catch" really paved the way for the Discovery Communications Inc. Alaska empire that has brought us such hits as "Alaskan Women Looking for Love," "Wild West Alaska," "Yukon Men," "Alaskan Steel Men," "Hook, Line & Sisters," "Railroad Alaska," "Alaska: The Last Frontier," "Bering Sea Gold," "Alaska Gold Diggers," "Gold Rush," "Sarah Palin's Alaska," "Big Hair Alaska," "Flying Wild Alaska," "Buying Alaska" and "Railroad Alaska," to name a few.

I've watched "Deadliest Catch" sporadically over the years, so I know the main characters, but haven't seen every episode. To prepare for the show's 10th season premiere, I went to Discovery.com to do some research.

Upon entering the site, you can instantly tell that "Deadliest Catch" is a huge revenue driver for the channel. Not only do they have a fantasy game where you pick your own crew and ship, but they have a spinoff preview show with the captains called "The Bait" that goes over highlights for the upcoming season. They'll also be airing 12 hours of raw footage from the deck cameras of the boats, for those who can't get enough of the show. Six boats. Twelve hours of raw footage each. (Sadly consults calculator.) That's 72 hours, or three days, a person could spend watching "Deadliest Catch."

A highlight reel from past seasons showcased the craziness that we've come to accept as normal. In season one, cameras caught young greenhorn crew member Kevin Davis slip on an icy deck and fall into the frigid ocean. He was saved by his fellow crew members, but it could have easily gone the other way. In another scene, a guy named Freddy jumps onto a dead walrus, shirtless, so he can try to harvest the tusks. A young Jake Harris pulls his own tooth with pliers, Captain Hillstrand breaks his nose and a 35-foot wave injures crew members of the Wizard. The Harris family decides the future of the Cornelia Marie after the death of their father, Captain Phil Harris.

"Deadliest Catch" is such a phenomenon because there are people -- like Captain Sig Hansen and the Hillstrand brothers -- who have been in our living rooms for nearly 10 years. These guys are celebrities and are part of reunion shows like the cast members of the "Real Housewives" franchise. But unlike the housewives, they have scary jobs that put them in life-or-death situations all the time.

It's no surprise the "Deadliest Catch" crew won multiple awards at the Reality Wanted Awards: overall show, best editing, bad ass crew and reality duo for Sig and Edgar.

Ultimately it's thanks to "Deadliest Catch" we are now living in a world where I can scroll through the channels and see friends on an episode of "Buying Alaska," be a few degrees of separation from a cast member of "Yukon Men" and see familiar faces in the background of "Railroad Alaska." I love that; it makes our small state seem a little smaller.

• Emily Fehrenbacher lives in Anchorage, where she reviews Alaska reality TV.

 


By EMILY FEHRENBACHER
Reality Check