Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Deadliest Catch

There is, as we all know, precious little that's real in "reality" television. Well unless one thinks that there is something real about the drunken/promiscuous antics on The Real World or Jersey Shore...unless one thinks that the legion of vapid ciphers/fame whores who preen through their staged and yet still remarkably empty-headed lives on "super-new" episodes of the dozens (well it seems that way anyhow) of E! shows really merit attention...or unless one thinks that putting the word "real" in the titles of the apparently endless iterations of the Real Housewives franchise lends any kind of merit to the titular characters (some of whom are not married...and none of whom actually seem to run homes, you know like real "Real housewives" do...)

Obviously there is some voyeuristic charge to watching these shows...they wouldn't be multiplying like rabbits if people weren't watching them...but they seem more sad and desperate than entertaining to me. Still and all, "reality" shoes have become the backbone of the summer TV season during recent years.

Even some of the better ones (I'm excluding competition shows like American Idol or Hell's Kitchen from this discussion...they are more in the talent show/game show genre than in the reality TV world)...the ones which follow people doing real jobs (Ice Road Truckers or Ace of Cakes for example) are often blatantly staged and heavily edited with an eye towards crafting "story lines" and creating "characters". I get that, it's television and even cool jobs are boring for long stretches of time and so wouldn't hold viewers' attention.

But, that said, there has always been an engaging, sometimes harrowing, realness to the exploits of the hardworking, hard-living crab fishermen who risk life and limb in the frigid, roiling Bering Sea to pull in their shares of million dollar hauls of crab. There are characters and storylines and the presence of cameras does, as a matter of course, distort the "reality"...but nevertheless Discovery's Deadliest Catch is often as compelling as TV..."reality" or not...gets.

Especially this season as the tragic story of one of the series' most interesting and likable people, the salty and complex Captain Phil Harris (see above, far left), plays out. Knowing the end of Captain Phil's "storyline" adds to...rather than detracts from...the poignancy of his appearances (and those of his sons...and crewmates...Josh and Jake.) Phil's story is part of a rich mosaic of stories of the Captains and crews of the crab fishing boats as they battle the weather, fatigue, and sometimes frustratingly elusive crab.

Deadliest Catch continues to be one of the most eminently watchable and utterly fascinating shows on the tube...and in this dreary television season when even usually reliable summer fare like Top Chef is laboring through a thus far disappointing run, that's a small wonder to be treasured.

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