‘Deadliest Catch’ season 5 hints from USA Today

From Gary Strauss of USA Today…

‘Deadliest Catch’ fishes out captains’ personal side

"This is real-life drama": The action of the crab harvest will again take center stage, says producer Thom Beers, but the fifth season also will delve into the sinking of the Katmai in October.

"This is real-life drama": The action of the crab harvest will again take center stage, says producer Thom Beers, but the fifth season also will delve into the sinking of the Katmai in October. (photo courtesy of USA Today and Cameron Glendenning--Deadliest Catch photographer)

Fans of Discovery’s popular Deadliest Catch have grown accustomed to the habits of the ornery skippers. Their collective demeanor can be as tough to navigate as the perilous Arctic waves that smash into their weathered crafts.

Deadliest Catch has personified the hardscrabble work ethic of blue-collar professions that has been popularized by reality TV, but tonight’s fifth-season opener (9 ET/PT) takes on a softer, soap-operatic tone. It examines the personal side of the boat captains and the fallout the dangerous King and Opilio crab harvests exact on fishing crews.

“This life is taking a toll on the skippers,” says Thom Beers, the reality TV kingpin behind Catchand such shows as History Channel’s Ax Men and Ice Road Truckers. “They’re all getting older and dealing with years of stress.”

Skipper Phil Harris, who escaped death after having a pulmonary embolism at the height of crabbing season last year, tries to return to helm his Cornelia Marie. But berthed at Dutch Harbor, Alaska, he awaits a doctor’s call that could keep him dry-docked.

“Am I still going to be able to do this? This is my career, man,” a weary, chain-smoking Harris tells a camera crew in tonight’s opener. Meanwhile, sons Jake and Josh squabble over lost bait sacks that cost Harris $5,000.

Rival skipper Keith Colburn, who got into a memorable in-your-face shouting match with brother Monte aboard the Wizard last season, has a cancer scare. He nervously awaits the results of a biopsy that could sideline him for the season.

Northwestern captain Sig Hansen, meanwhile, laments whether he’ll recoup the $800,000 he sank into repairs and modifications to his aging trawler.

“Everybody’s got their bumps and bruises and scars,” Hansen tells USA TODAY. “It isn’t a gravy train.” Noting the health concerns facing some of his peers, Hansen says onboard diets can be lousy and quips that his largely is a “three-c” menu: coffee, cigarettes and chocolate.

Still, a load of king crab harvested in just a few weeks can fetch $1 million, offsetting fuel, wages, insurance and other overhead costs.

Hansen, perhaps the best-known and most opportunistic fisherman to emerge from Deadliest Catch, has appeared on virtually every late-night talk show since the series vaulted to one of basic cable’s biggest hits. (New episodes regularly draw more than 3 million viewers.) Fame prompted Hansen to develop a line of specialty foods, coffees and video games…

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