Review: 'Deadliest Catch'

Post by: Rick Ellis 12 April, 2021

I recently did a radio interview in which one of the hosts asked me which show I considered to be the most influential reality series in television history. While a lot of people might answer that question with the long running CBS competition series Survivor, my answer was Discovery's Alaska crab fishing series Deadliest Catch. While it's true that the early years of Survivor had a large cultural influence, Deadliest Catch helped create an entire genre of successful reality shows. Its format and approach to story-telling has remained enormously influential over the ensuing years and I'd argue that Deadliest Catch continues to be a much more enjoyable show to watch than the recent seasons of Survivor.

Deadliest Catch begins its 17th season this week, and as you might might suspect, the season is focused on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Given the impact the virus has had on every aspect of society, you would expect to see the familiar crab fishermen of the show battling with possible outbreaks and involuntary changes in the way they do their day-to-day work. All of that is there in the season premiere, but the episode (and apparently the season) is primarily dominated by a challenge that I didn't see coming.

As it turns out, the pandemic prevented the Alaskan Fish and Game scientists from doing their annual survey of the crab population ahead of the season. That had a couple of important impacts on the fishery. First, the survey typically helps narrow down where the king crab populations might be located, giving fishermen a bit of a hint of where to start their fishing. But even more importantly, they decided on a quota based on the scant information they had. And unfortunately for the fleet, the laws that determine how the fisheries are managed don't have any caveats for the impact of a pandemic. The laws state that if the fleet doesn't catch all of the quota it's assigned that season, the assumption would be the reason is because the crab population is unexpectedly depleted. And the entire fishery will be off-limits for a year or two to allow the crab population to renew itself.

That involuntary future shutdown is an over-riding worry for the fleet and veteran fishermen (and longtime Deadliest Catch star) Sig Hansen rallies together the other captains on the show and convinces them to work together. He's convinced the only way there will be a crab season next year is if the captains share information about where the crab are located and how well each boat is doing with their pots.



If you're familiar with the personalities on the show, you won't be surprised to earn that each captain's attitude about sharing is defined a bit differently. And those differences are the center of a lot of what happens in the season premiere. Along with the return of a veteran Deadliest Catch captain, whom Sig convinces to return to the seas in one last effort to catch his quota and help save the fleet.

There are a number of funny moments in the season premiere, ranging from Sig's casual approach to his own idea about sharing to the surprise that greets one captain after he decides to lie about how well he's doing with his crab pots. And it's fun to see Sig struggling to figure out how to deal with his daughter Mandy, who is co-captaining the Northwestern and who sometimes has a very different idea of how the boat should be run.

It's amazing to be how well Deadliest Catch has held up over the years. Some of the faces have changed and the production style has evolved over the show's run. But what hasn't changed is the show's ability to be consistently entertaining without feeling as if every moment is guided by producers or manipulated in the editing process.

I've only seen the first episode of the season, so I don't know where it's all headed. But if this season of Deadliest Catch is anything like the previous sixteen, it'll be a fun roller coaster ride.

Deadliest Catch premieres Tuesday, April 20th, 2021 on Discovery. The episode is already available on the streaming service Discovery+


Last modified on Tuesday, 20 April 2021 14:45