So many times I’ve walked into the living room where my wife has decided to camp out – she’s laid back, sprawled out with a blanket halfway covering her (doesn’t matter what season, the house is usually cool enough to accommodate a comfy blanket) – watching Deadliest Catch. It’s a moment, a moment that happens very often as she will watch a season or catch up on a season, or look back on other seasons, always relishing it, the journey that each crew on each vessel is taking – and boy, what a journey it is.
One of most intriguing aspects of Deadliest Catch lies in the signature of the name itself — Deadliest. Unequivocally, there is something sublime about watching real-live human beings face something as gargantuan and vast as the ocean and sea, all in order to make a living. Perhaps that is the catch when it comes to reality television, the bait and the end of the line that lures you in and hooks you – the plight and the peril, all in the face of trying to earn a living.
But as a viewer, a person sitting in the comfort of their own home (the complete opposite of the life that is being watched on the television screen when taking in Deadliest Catch), the wonder of the events taking place, the action involved in the work that is done on a day-to-day basis is almost magical and we want to know not only more about the magicians on the ships doing the blue-collar work of crabbing, but also what is happening behind the scenes. So, let’s take a look at some of what really happens behind the scenes of Deadliest Catch:
19 SHOW ME THE MONEY
It is the question that everyone wants to ask: How much money do you make? And really, how often have you sat on your sofa, watching Deadliest Catch or any show for that matter, and wonder that very same question. Well, let’s finally get some resolve for that query – on Deadliest Catch, crewman earn $15,000 a month or sometimes between $20,000 to $50,000 over the span of three months according to the Alaska Fishing Employment.
18 THE SLEEP OVER
Ever wonder where and how the camera men on board any of the ships on Deadliest Catch sleep? I mean, the travail of each ship on the tumultuous bed of ocean alone is jarring just to watch. Well, the sleeping habits of most camera men usually are the same as the crew, meaning they are up with the crew and they sleep when the crew does. However, there are some that do like their sleep, or so it’s been said – and the cameras are always on the captain in case you were wondering.
17 RENT SPACE
Being on one of the boats on Deadliest Catch can be a tight fit. The boats and the subsequent journey are not meant for camera men and filming. The ships themselves are vessels, not of luxury, but necessity, meant to be used as tools so space is limited. Cameramen have to earn their keep. They have to wake up with the crew and work as they work; they usually eat when the crew eats as well. The cameramen become very much part of the crew.
16 CLIMATE CHANGE IS CHANGING THINGS
One of the most exciting aspects about Deadliest Catch is the conflict between human and nature. It speaks to some of the stories of old, where mankind must face a seemingly uncontrollable offering of force from nature — it speaks to some of our most primal instincts and aspirations for survival. However, as nature is being affected by climate change, it is also affecting the show. Many of the cast and crew are having to take more risks and so they are having to go out into new territories to meet the demands of crabbing, given that the cold water crab is depleting because of the change in temperatures.
15 NOT EVERYONE WAS ALL IN AT THE BEGINNING
When Discovery Channel approached many of the potential crabbers about beginning the show Deadliest Catch, there were far more skeptics than there were people jumping at the chance. Sig Hansen, one of the more popular crabbers and cast of the show joined immediately. Others would follow, but it wasn’t a race to be on. Many snowballed their way in – not everyone wants to be famous, I guess.
14 ONLY A FEW BOATS
The show itself follows 5 to 6 ships, but at the time of filming there are far more out at sea than that. Originally, when the show began, there were over 300, but with the success of the show and the protective perimeters of Alaska Fish and Game, a new system was put into place, from derby to quota. Now, there may be 100 ships.
13 RADIO CALLS
Often times on the show, radio calls happen and we are given insight to what’s going on around a particular ship or somewhere else with another vessel or possibly even someone who is not being filmed. Discovery has decidedly put a camera crew, at least one, with the coast guard so it may seem like some of the called-in drama is coordinated, but really it’s not. Most of the captains are always listening in on the radio in case others out at sea need some assistance. However, it doesn’t hurt that if something does happen for the camera crews to remain ready, given that the public may want to see it – this may affect whether they go or not.
12 SIG’S PROBLEM WITH UBER
He’s possibly the most prominent and popular cast member on Deadliest Catch — Sig Hansen, the captain of the fishing vessel Northwestern, is the most fiery person on the show. In May of 2017, Hansen got in trouble with the law after an incident with an Uber driver. The Northwestern captain got into an argument with the driver and then not only spat on the driver, but proceeded to kick the car, damaging it. Sig Hansen conceded to the charges and offered his apology to the driver and the public.
11 BEHIND-THE-SCENES LAWSUITS
After losing a $3 million lawsuit to a former deckhand, the Hillstrands were also looking at another $3 million lawsuit from a different suitor – Discovery. The two brothers were supposedly in talks to do a spinoff series with Discovery called Hillstranded but for some reason, they failed to show up for the final interview and some shots, causing the new production to be halted. In the wake of the Hillstrands’ infringement, a lawsuit took place. However, after the Hillstrands threatened to leave the parent show, Deadliest Catch, and take Sig Hansen and some other of the cast members with them, the two amicably came to an agreement.
10 FAKE FOOTAGE
Well, what can you say? This is reality TV and unfortunately, some liberties have to be taken, and the Deadliest Catch is no exception. In season 4, the Wizard is hit pretty hard by a huge storm– it crashed into rocks and banged around against waves, causing the crew to be thrown around. However, that wasn’t really the case at all. The episode we saw, which was actually the season 4 opener, was video footage from different events and times – months apart to be exact. This was all done to increase the action and drama.
9 SOMETHING EVEN scarier
A lot goes into making a show – even the title given to that show is significant – it has to speak to the audience, truly capture the essence of what the show and series will be about. For Deadliest Catch, the word choice is obvious and has obvious meaning. However, the crabbers and everything they undertake isn't actually the deadliest type of ocean job. From 2000 to 2014, cod and flounder on the east coast of the United States was the most dangerous kind of fishing with scallop fishing in the Atlantic falling in second – this is all according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. However, crabbing, as seen on Deadliest Catch, is dangerous and should not be dismissed as anything less. And still, it is reported that each year, fishing conditions seem to get better.
8 SAY IT AIN’T SO SIG
Prior to his run in with the Uber driver in May 2017, Hansen got in trouble with his daughter, a 28-year old attorney who lives in Seattle. The captain’s daughter filed a lawsuit that heavily consisted of memories and past medical examinations as potential evidence. Included in the evidence were medical records and a therapist’s evaluation. Sig Hansen has denied these allegations and as of April 2017, no charges were brought up against him. Sig and his daughter are estranged.
7 A BANDWAGON NOT TO BE RIDDEN ON
The thing about reality television is that somewhere in there, no matter how many times video footage is spliced, cropped, and edited to create the show – it’s flow and pace – that is wanted and necessary for audiences and to garner ratings, real life seems to creep in. For Deadlist Catch, one of the biggest creepers of real life has been the substance problems that many of its cast members have faced. Cast members like Jake Harris got in trouble with the law and Nick McGlashan’s struggle has been one of great length. He has even gone on record about his plight. Fan-favorite and problem-riddled Elliot Neese was actually removed from the show and forced to seek help.
6 BEAVER BLOWN AWAY
It took two years to resolve, but David “Beaver” Zielinski, a former deckhand on the Hillstrand’s Time Bandit, was awarded $1.3 million for an incident that happened on the vessel. The actual incident happened on the show where a firework of the mortar-style variety went off in the Beaver’s hand. This happened on the deck of the Hillstrand ship. The connection to the Hillstrands and the firework lies in that it was a Hillstrand branded product. Supposedly, the firework blew up too early and caused severe injury to Zielinski’s hand.
5 Sad moments
One of the saddest moments on Deadliest Catch – especially when looked back on – was the passing of Phil Harris. Captain Harris was a beloved cast member of the show and the captain of the Cornelia Marie. In season six of Deadliest Catch, the captain passed away while offloading crab on January 29, 2010 off of St. Paul Island in Alaska. He was flown to Anchorage for surgery and was placed in an induced coma, but sadly, he didn't make it.
4 NEESE made a rookie mistake
Elliot Neese is one of the more interesting cast members on Deadliest Catch. A young captain, the youngest actually, who has struggled with substance abuse regularly, Neese is one of the staples of the show when it comes to drama – and as part of the reality TV grind, his life predicaments make for good television. However, in addition to the trouble he faces on screen, the young captain was also fined $3,000 for catching under-sized crabs by the Alaska Department of Fish and Games. The incident was labeled as a “rookie mistake.”
3 unfortunate moment
In 2011, a year after the passing of Phil Harris, the cast of Deadliest Catch suffered another lost. Justin Tennison, a 33-year old fisher man on the Hillstrand’s Time Bandit passed of complications related to sleep apnea. Tennison was set to make his first appearance on the show in April of that year despite already being employed on the Time Bandit.
2 can't escape the past
You could argue that no one is really innocent and for the most part, that would be true. However, it seems as though Deadliest Catch is plagued with some pretty pre-nefarious characters – cast members who are real people that have committed a few miscellaneous incidents. But none tops Joshua Tel Warner, a former crew member of the Wizard. As you would have it, in 2007, Warner was wanted for a series bank incidents and after receiving a tip from a former crew member on Deadliest Catch, Werner was sentenced to 9 ½ years in 2010.
1 SHOW PRODUCTION MANAGER
In a surprising turn of events, Matthew Schneider, the show’s production manager, also got in trouble with law. On a show that already has cast members that deal with multiple problems, this is tantamount to the potential problems that exist within a lot of circles that sometimes go unnoticed or mentioned. Schneider tried to make some quick cash, but obviously didn't get away with it.
References: people.com, dicoverychannel.com, tmz.com