GateHouse — Because a 6-year-old lives in it, our house has pretty strict rules about TV, but because I’m a reasonable parent — and by that I mean “inconsistent whenever it’s convenient for me” — I tend to waive those rules under appropriate circumstances, such as the airing of a “Deadliest Catch” marathon on the Discovery Channel.
I do this because I am father to possibly the developed world’s liveliest 6-year-old “Deadliest Catch” fan. If there was a Time Bandit Lego playset, or perhaps a Capt. Phil Harris action figure (with detachable cigarette), Christmas 2009 would have featured a whole lot more crabs in it, instead of just the three million trains. (Absolutely true story: My son recently wondered aloud if the Phil Harris from “Deadliest Catch” is the same Phil Harris who voices Baloo in “The Jungle Book.” I’m investigating whether or not you can get scholarships through IMDB.)
If you aren’t familiar, “Deadliest Catch” returns for its sixth season April 13 on the Discovery Channel, a cable outlet which used to be devoted strictly to relentless animal fornication but now is TV’s premier outlet for showing people whose jobs involve an elevated amount of open sewage, on-the-job violence or fluids of displeasing origins. (In addition to “Catch,” Discovery airs the fantastic “Dirty Jobs,” which, the last time I watched, featured two people manipulating the digestive system of a snake until it chorked up three-quarters of a moderately digested fish onto a table; the only part missing, delightfully, was the head. On the plus side it’s not like I was enjoying a fish sandwich at the time or anything OH WAIT YES I WAS, BUT GO AHEAD GUYS, KEEP IT UP, WITH THE CLOSE-UP SNAKE FISHVOMIT).
Anyway, “Deadliest Catch” is a reality show not in the vacant-eyed gossip-pinups-dance-for-money vein, but one that tracks the bracingly intense and oft-bleeped exploits of Alaskan crab fisherman, a group of snow-covered seapeople who are defined by insane hours, an inhuman willingness to work through shattering conditions and many pretty immediate dental needs. If you are, say, someone whose days are given over to remaining seated in front of a computer, it is near-perfect “Into The Wild”-type escapism, albeit escapism that makes you feel like about a third of an actual man, especially if you hypothetically have a thing about spiders or whatever.
I blame my interest in the show on my brother and sister-in-law and their large and giant television, which is something like 63 feet wide, has plasma all up in it and can see back to just a few million years after the Big Bang. A few years ago I visited them and their TV, and the first thing they did was dial it directly to a crackling Super HD Giant-Screen Look At The Crabs Jumping At Your Face broadcast of “Deadliest Catch,” which caused parts of my brain to leak from my ears and resulted in a great deal of cleanup on the part of my brother, who hates it when brains get all over his couch (totally OCD, but whatever).
Needless to say, within a few months, I had a new TV and a flotilla of HD “Deadliest Catch” shows on the DVR machine. And I quickly found myself sharing it with my son, because far from being mere entertainment, “Deadliest Catch” teaches many valuable life lessons:
- Smoking is awesome.
- If your job does not involve being soaked to the bone with ice-cold seawater during a 36-hour shift unloading massive clacking crabs from giant metal traps on a boat pitching around in violent Arctic seas, you should probably quit whining about how bad your job is.
- When you have spent several hours watching Alaskan fisherman navigate gale-force winds, freak storms and the occasional seal attack, however boring you think you are, you suddenly realize you’re like 10 times more boring than that. (Note to animal lobbyists: I know, I’m kidding about the seal attack. Seals are, of course, cute and friendly and delicious.)
But we’re going to run into problems with the show later this year, because one of the most entertaining “Deadliest Catch” captains, the afore-mentioned Phil Harris, died in February. My son of course does not know this yet, but he suspects something is up, because every time the commercial comes on with the dramatic, starkly lit close-ups of the captains and crew, that Eddie Vedder ukulele song and the shots of a broken-looking Capt. Phil, Dad gets suddenly and obviously choked up for no apparent reason whatsoever (for his benefit I make up something about the Cubs, which is entirely logical). But I have a foolproof plan for how to handle this: When that part of the season rolls around, I will quietly, yet firmly, switch back over to “The Jungle Book.”