You might be surprised at how much of an international success “Deadliest Catch” has become. Besides the U.S., Canada, the U.K., and Australia, Discovery’s mega hit is really big in the Phillipines. And while we may be wishing that Discovery would run a few marathons to hold us of until next spring, fans in the Phillipines just watched their very first episode of the third season on September 11th. They’re just getting into it. Just for the fun of it, it’s kind of interesting to read a review from a slightly different perspective. From the Philippine Business Daily Mirror, Tito Valiente writes a review of the season 3 opening…
CORNELIA MARIE, Northwestern, Time Bandit, and Maverick are back. They are joined by The Wizard, Farwest Leader, Early Dawn and Aleutian Ballad. These are the crab-fishing boats that captured the awe and admiration of some 3 million viewers each week on Discovery Channel’s series Deadliest Catch. The fishermen who were fearless even as they were candid and brave enough to show their fears are back in an adventure that is much too fantastic to be real.
The documentary takes us once more to the Bering Sea, where fishermen—call them hunters—are expected to endure subzero arctic weather and 60-mph winds. The seas in the area threaten and make true their threats to create waves the size of four-story buildings.
The first episode shows the fishermen getting ready for the crab season. We are at the Dutch Harbor and the scenes are idyllic, pastoral even. From afar, the camera trains on the seas that, given the distance, look placid enough. After having the nightmare that the Bering Sea weather can wreck upon a fishing boat in the previous series, the opening scenes must be the calm before the storm. Indeed, in the calm we are introduced once more to the fishermen who, as the documentary proceeds, start to assume the air of leading characters in a narrative about man and the Sea.
The sea-tested captains are back: Sig Hansen, a fourth-generation Norwegian fisherman, superstitious and able to enjoy the competition; Phil Harris, joined by his two sons, fatherly and cranky with them; Johnathan and Andy Hillstrand, who share the duties of the skipper aboard a boat designed by their father; Keith Colburn, manning one of the largest vessels in the fleet at 155 feet in length, actually a World War II-period Navy ship; Greg Moncrief, he who is called “the natural” because he has the talent to spot the site for good crab harvest; Jerry Tilley, sailing with his daughter Nicole and son Matthew, who serve as deckhands; Allen Oakley, skipper for about 15 years; and Blake Painter, greenhorn captain for Maverick, for the first time responsible to his crew and to the sea waiting for the right man to harvest the season’s treasures.
The first episode begins in peace and closes with a ship that capsizes, leaving its three crew members open to hypothermia and even death. The Coast Guard is another character in this pilot, its helicopter scanning the breadth and danger of the Bering Sea. We have seen this kind of rescue in films, but done in documentary it is even more gripping to see coast guards being lowered to the sea and its massive waves toppling anything that hits their crest. Everything is real.
The cinematography brings on postcard-pretty scenes even when the camera hovers and flies off the windswept landscape. The camera catches wooden crosses gray and bone-white from time and wind. We want the cameras to linger but the men managing them refuse to sentimentalize things. They scan briskly the sad scenario and leave them fast for other views, for other stories. It is as if they are all in a hurry to get to the action.
On the boats, the cameras are even briskier, turning around and freely spinning as if bringing the audience into the site. Jeff Conroy, the coexecutive producer of Deadliest Catch 3, reveals the presence of two or three cameramen with producers on each boat. Two fixed cameras are mounted on the deck ready to grab the action there for us. Another camera is on the captain, while a crew is ever ready for another camera to seize the rush of the moment.
Watching the first episode, I realize that much of the adrenaline surge in the documentary can be attributed not only to the fishermen doing a most exciting reality show but also to the camera and those holding them. Conroy says that more than anything else, he looks for toughness in his cinematographers. He claims a cameraman working on a documentary like the Deadliest Catch are those who are ready to see their characters turning hostile and the conditions ruthless. He, in fact, stresses that the producers and cameramen who are successful are those who have the intuition “to follow compelling stories while operating in the worst conditions imaginable.”