Deadliest Catch is the realest of reality shows—“in the documentary sense of the word, as opposed to the corrupt facsimile associated with the so-called ‘reality TV’”—and in its coverage of unscripted television’s first death, it maintains that gritty grace. A string of episodes showing Captain Phil Harris’s last days will culminate with tonight’s finale. His death, from complications following a stroke, has been presented throughout “with intelligence and taste,” writes Matt Zoller Seitz for Salon.
“At no point did the series succumb to dumb voyeurism,” he continues. “Deadliest Catch has brought old-school documentary sobriety to a genre more often known for shamelessness.” Captain Phil, “a pragmatic and rueful man,” wanted the Discovery Channel series to keep filming the entirety of his ordeal, to show “the reality of a crabber’s life.” In doing so, he made Catch “a Trojan Horse reality show, smuggling integrity into a morally bankrupt genre.”