Category Archives: Television

Goodbye, Captain Phil.

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Like many others, my wife and I were glued to the TV on Tuesday night to watch the Deadliest Catch episode. Albeit taped on our DVR, we watched the show in between the east and west coast feeds.

This episode held tremendous interest for me and m’girl as this was the episode when Captain Phil passed away.

For those not familiar with the show, the Deadliest Catch allows viewers to watch several fishing boats during crab season in the Bering Sea off the Alaskan coast. Phil Harris was captain of the Cornelia Marie boat. His two sons, Jake and Josh, also work on the boat. They have been on this show for all 6 seasons; fans of the show have watched a lot of life on the Cornelia Marie.

Phil has had several health issues over the past couple of years; his illness and subsequent demise were not totally unexpected. The show is taped during the winter, and aired in the summer after Discovery Channel has completed editing the footage taken by the camera operators on all of the ships (5 of them). When Phil passed away on February 9, the news was made public even though the show informing viewers of his death would not air until 5 months later.

M’girl and I found out about Phil’s passing within a day or two of February 9. Discovery had hyped this week’s episode right after last week’s episode completed. We knew what was going to happen, but did not let that stop us from shedding tears. In fact, this show was emotionally draining to watch all season because we knew the end result while watching all of the drama unfold.

At the beginning of the season, Jake was sent to another boat to get experience working for another captain that wasn’t his dad. He got back on the Cornelia Marie by strapping on a survival suit, jumping off the Northwestern and letting the Cornelia Marie crew fish him out of the frigid Bering Sea.

Jake continued to command the spotlight when Phil caught his son stealing his pain pills (can’t remember which drug). A huge fight ensued with Phil telling Jake that when the ship docked he needed to leave, and proclaiming that “I don’t ever want to see you again!” After Jake pledging to check into rehab, they (thankfully) made up.

Knowing that Phil would be gone within weeks or even days make scenes like this fight hard to watch.

This week’s episode showed more of the struggle between Phil’s sons. After Phil seems to have stabilized, Jake heads off to rehab. The hospital then calls Josh saying his dad has taken a turn, and he needs to head back to the hospital right away. The episode ends with the audio of Josh leaving a voice mail for Jake informing him  “we lost dad.”

Our reaction to this drama brings a question to my mind: why? Why were we moved to tears over someone we did not really know? When we cry over someone’s passing, the normal reason is because there was a relationship. There was no relationship between us and Phil; he never met us. And if it wasn’t for the show, we wouldn’t have known or cared about a fishing boat’s captain that passed away several thousand miles from our home in Arizona.

However, reality shows like the Deadliest Catch allow viewers to become emotionally involved with the subjects of the program. We share the frustrations, triumphs and tragedies of our favorite actors.

Is this good or bad? Or neither? Should we be concerned about how we react to drama surrounding celebrities? I am sure some would say this level of emotional involvement is not healthy because there is no relationship.

We have a tremendous amount of freedom. Whether you identify yourself as an American citizen, a Christian, or something else, if you are reading this blog you have more freedom than millions of other humans oppressed by government or lack of technology. The last thing I want to do is to restrict that freedom because of a moral judgement.

However, I will say this: our freedom should not be abused. Enjoying a reality show is not wrong in and of itself. But I want to be careful to ensure the majority of my time and energy is spent on things that matter. I am glad that I have opportunities to become involved with activities that allow me to make an impact on others, both inside and outside of my family. After all, a television show should never be a substitute for building relationships in life that matter.

That being said, I am glad I got to know a little bit about the life of Phil Harris, Captain of the Cornelia Marie. Yeah, you were a grumpy old bear at times, and you ingested way too much tobacco, caffeine, and alcohol. But you worked your butt off, and loved your sons in a way that leaves them with a legacy they will never forget.

Phil, I hope I get to see you in heaven. When I get there, I fully expect you to be in the wheelhouse of a crab boat pulling in a lot of opies. Godspeed.

Category: Television