By Tom Comi
Deadliest Catch is often credited with putting the “real” in reality TV, and that couldn’t have been more true last season when viewers watched helplessly as Captain Phil Harris of the Cornelia Marie died before our very eyes.
We were there when Phil — a heavy smoker — collapsed and was rushed from his boat to the hospital. We had front-row seats with Josh and Jake as they watched their father pass. And we mourned with his family, friends and fellow fishermen when they gathered in New Orleans to give him a proper send-off.
It was without question some of the most riveting television ever, and it is the very reason I wonder how the show can possibly match the intensity and emotion moving forward. We will find out tonight at 9pm ET when the new season premieres on Discovery Channel with a mixture of the usual suspects and some fresh faces.
All eyes will obviously be on the Cornelia Maria, as Josh, Jake and the rest of the crew move forward with new skipper Derrick Ray. Also returning are captains Andy and Johnathan Hillstrand (Time Bandit), Sig Hansen (Northwestern), Bill Wichrowski (Kodiak) and Keith Colburn (Wizard).
And while these mainstays go a long way toward giving the show stability, the success of this year’s season could hinge on the new boats and personalities. One newbie to keep an eye on is Ramblin’ Rose Captain Elliot Neese, who at 28 is the youngest to helm a ship in the fleet. We also get introduced tonight to Scott Campbell of the Seabrooke.
The lure of Deadliest Catch has always been about the personalities, and the producers have been fantastic in seasons past about putting names and back-stories to the faces. While the show obviously focuses on the dangerous crab-fishing trade, it is the people who we have been and always will be drawn to every episode.
The catch for the producers will be to successfully mesh the returning crews with the new blood and hope the magic and chemistry that was captured last year can be sustained. And when you are following the tragic yet inspirational story of the late Phil Harris, that is much easier said than done.
Credit: Rick Gershon/Getty Images/Discovery Channel