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‘Deadliest Catch': The Death of Captain Phil

Originally published June 25, 2010, we are reposting this entry in light of last night’s emotional “Deadliest Catch” in which the news of Captain Phil’s death was shared with the rest of the crab fishing fleet. Share your thoughts on the episode and your memories of Captain Phil here with other fans.

Last night’s “Deadliest Catch” featured the what would eventually prove to be fatal stroke of Cornelia Marie captain Phil Harris. It was also the most watched episode of the Discovery Channel reality show ever, pulling in 5.4 million viewers. Now I’m a cynic, but I’m nowhere as cynical as New York Magazine’s “Vulture” blog contributor Willa Paskin who flippantly wrote, “Well, we can expect more deaths on reality TV now!”
The fact is, Ms. Paskin, that viewers have grown to adore the hard-living, hard-working men of the crab-fishing fleet featured on the show and it’s fitting that fans who may have drifted away from the show return to bid captain Phil bon voyage.
While the channel has come under fire for what will be an intense focus on Phil’s failing health and eventual passing, Discovery Channel President and General Manager Clark Bunting explained to Entertainment Weekly that the coverage doesn’t cross any lines and is in fact imperative to the narrative.
“The storyline for Deadliest Catch is about the full arc of Phil’s life,” said Bunting. “It’s the full arc of going through not just what happened to Phil and the boys, but also the rest of the fleet, the captains sharing their experiences, and them becoming aware of the tragedy that happened.”
Talking about Phil’s life in terms of storyline may seem as cold as the Bering Sea the men fish in, but Harris himself saw the value to good storytelling as Todd Stanley, the Cornelia Marie‘s long-time camera man and friend of Harris told The New York Times.


“We always talked about [a story] having a beginning, a middle and an end,” he recalled. “Without one of those three things, you don’t have a story.”
After waking from a medically induced coma, Harris reportedly slipped a note to Stanley asking him to “keep filming” as there “has to be an end to this story.”
The paper reports that Josh Harris, Phil’s elder son, “was adamant that the consequences of the stroke should be shown, adding that the producers ‘were very sensitive’ about filming.”
While I could have done without the gratuitous shots of the raven and the dirge-like string music accompanying the shots of a stretchered Phil being hoisted off the deck of his ships, I thought the producers handled it tastefully and truthfully.
What did you think of the episode? Will you miss Captain Phil?

  • LutheranChik

    I’m a big “Catch” fan. I wasn’t crazy about the brief lapse into cinematic melodramatics either — hello, directors, we know how this story is going to end — but all in all I thought the event was shown in a way that balanced realism with sensitivity.
    I’m far more annoyed with the Sarah Palin political-ad-masquarading-as-television-programming that Discovery Channel has in the works. Ecch.

  • Todd Stanley

    I love you Phil… I will never forget being stuck with you for this long many days at sea!

  • William Downing

    Phil was my favorite Captian and I will miss his wry sence of humor and the love he had for his boys even when he had to repremand them. You could see in the aftermath that he was terriblely disappointed in there bad behavior but you could always see how much he loved those boys and how proud of them he was. Phil you will be sorely missed by millions. May God be with you. Rest in peace old friend

  • Kevin Rankin

    There are few men who get to live their job,and spend time with their sons like Phil did. You will be missed.
    Smooth seas and calm winds…..Rest in peace my friend

  • dental hygienist

    Pretty nice post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed browsing your blog posts. In any case I’ll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you write again soon!

  • nbk

    Goodby Cpt. Phil. May you rest in peace. Your love for life and the love for you gave to your sons will always be with me.

  • Renae Jordan

    Great show, great filming and narration, keep up the good work. As for the “Deadliest Catch”, one grew to know the captains and crew members on all the boats and a bond was formed as their triumphs and trials unfolded. Why would one not want to know how Capt.Phil`s life ended, not out of morbid curiosity but for genuine interest in the real life and death of a man we admired. R.I.P. Captain, you will be greatly missed.

  • Captray

    Giveme 30,nots over the bow,Head her in to the wind,smooth sailing Captphil,Love you buddy,GOD BLESS.

  • Jean Gunter

    aptain Phil will be missed I relly liked Phil as the captain and especialy how he handled his boys.
    Sorry for his death at still a young age,he will be missed…
    God bless him..

  • Patrick Supernor

    Captin Phil will be missed by all that came to know him,R.I.P.Captain PhilThank you and crew for fond memories.Thank you Patrick Supernor

  • kendra

    It is a sad day to see the loss of someone as vibrant as Capt. Phil Harris. My prayers and condolences go out to both Jake and Josh.
    May the rest of the fleet remain steadfast in continuing to keep safe in such a dangerous line of work while they mourn the loss of a very dear friend.

  • john medlin

    Phil will live on thru his memories,and thru Jake and Josh!I hope the show keeps airing episodes with Captain Phil!From my family to yours God be with all the Harris family and the rest of the Fleet!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Linda

    God bless Daptain Phil; it was a fresh taste of reality TV that kept me glued to the set for awhile, off and on, and returning to watch the show(s) again.
    God bless Josh and Jake, and I know your Dad was a real ‘man’, who handled his crew and job well, and now, his family – we got to know them.
    love and blessngs to you,
    we loved watching. Lin_ wi.

  • Lisa Washoe

    We will miss him deaply. My heart gos out to the family. I dont think watching the show will be the same without him. I couldnt wait to watch the show, mostly to see him and his sons have their quarls. And waitting for a new season was the worst ever. I hope the boys keep his spirt alive buy letting us enjoy them in the future to come.

  • LGevaert

    Captain Phil Harris will greatly be missed. I have watched from the beginning and feel as if he was family, and we will miss him dearly. My thoughts and prayers go out to Josh and Jake. I hope everything works out for them and they continue to fish the Bearing Sea. I believe that is what their father Phil Harris would want. Good luck boys and may god be with you always.

  • Shannon

    I am a huge fan of Deadliest catch and I just want to say that Captain Phil Harris was a great man. He was my fav. Cap. on the whole show. I never knew the man but I just cried for him and his family today when I heard the new’s he will truly be missed and was loved by many

  • Aaron

    The last couple episodes so far have made me tear up, beginning with the episode with Phil’s major stroke. The thing that makes it really hard is that Phil knew it was coming. The previous episdoe had Phil commenting that he would “not be around much longer”…then with the next episode, he talked with his sons and was sharing some old family photos, showing his favorite photos of his beloved sons. Shortly thereafter, he had the stroke. So Phil knew the end was near. Phil was one of the best characters on the show, and someone that many fans felt a deep personal bond with…he was just that type of guy. Anyay, I’m not looking forward to the next couple of episodes, especially the one where he dies…but we have to watch it. To Phil…father, fisherman, friend. We’ll miss you, buddy.

  • Mary Kay

    I have been a huge fan of this show since it began. It takes you into the lives of these men – their career and their personal lives. It is not a pretty job, but the men on this boat are what America was made of once upon a time. They don’t mind getting their hands dirty and working hard to make a living. They have let us see the good, bad and the ugly.
    I am not surprised that Captain Phil wanted us to see the whole story. That is what I have always appreciated about these men. They are REAL, and life is not always a bed of roses. The Discovery Channel filmed this tastefully and respectfully honoring what Phil desired. I see nothing wrong with celebrating a man’s life until the end. I have seen much worse on TV.
    God Bless Captain Phil, his family, and the crew for sharing their lives with us.

  • Lorene

    I am a big fan of Deadliest Cast,I watched it everytime it was on.I loved Captain Phil.He realy knew what he was doing out there.He will be missed dearly.I hope that his kids keep his legacy going for years to come.I hope they do a show with his boys running the boat.I pray for the boys everyday.GOD BLESS

  • Mary Munoz-Davis, Austin, Texas

    Dear Josh and Jake. I sit here for the 4th of July special knowing what is to come. I watched the whole ordeal yesterday. Watching this show has been one of the high points of my week. My husband and I would often watch the show together. While I watch this, I think of the two of you. I’ve read the Discovery Channel will do a special show dedicated to the man we all lovingly knew as “Captain Phil Harris”. A ‘True’ seaman he was. full of love for you. Even in the face of challenge. For both of you, remember the man he was. A father to the very end. I personally loved your Old Man, and you boys like my own. Funny how Reality Television does that to you. But The Fleet of The Deadliest Catch brought to us the glory and the pain to bring the goods to we who enjoy and partake of your goods. There will never be a man of his caliber. But you my sons will live on. My heart is heavy as it has been the day I was watching CNN and the blurb at the bottom of the screen announced his death. I cried out loudly for a friend I never knew. For the boys who still needed him so. I read about your private services. Rightly done as per your father’s request. Although I loved The Fleet as a whole, it is you and The Cornelia Marie that will long live in my mind, my heart and my soul. My sons move forward. Stop smoking now that you have witnessed first hand what it could do to you. Do that much for your Pop. All my love and well wishes go out to you and yours and the The Fleet of “The Deadliest Catch.” God Speed gentlemen. Oh, and Thanks to Mike Rowe for his wonderful narration, as always. I love you Phil. Watch over those sons of yours and keep em’ on the straight and narrow.

  • Marilyn Austing-Silva, Hutto, TX

    Awwww…Josh and Jake….My heart has been breaking for you and the entire Deadliest Catch family. When I heard of your dad’s passing, I immediately had tears. My husband and I have not missed an episode of the show and we have both come to love all of you. We respect everything that the crews go through on the water. It ripped us to pieces to watch what happened with your dad. Do yourselves both a favor and don’t follow his footsteps with the smoking. Stay clean and straight. I lost my dad and my husband lost both parents to smoking. It’s a horrible thing.
    Your dad was a wonderful man on the show!
    May you all have wonderful lives and many fond memories of your dad!

  • Gail, Joplin, MO

    Just finished watching this seasons last episode of Deadliest Catch. My husband and I haven’t missed an episode since it started. Actually, we watched Deadliest Catch before it was a regular series, when some episodes were specials at different times through the year.
    Heck, I remember seeing Edgar Hanson when he and his wife was on an episode of Trading Spaces!
    Captain Phil was our favorite. And watching his interaction with his boys, friends, and other sea-going persons was a delight.
    My heart and prayers goes to Jake, Josh, and the entire Harris family and friends.
    I too lost my father at the age of 53, and my mother was a victim of stroke. So I understand the stress, the sadness, and the loss.
    Captain Phil will be deeply missed.
    We appreciate the way that the episodes were done in true Phil Harris style…to the end! Mike Rowe, the other captains and crew, and the station as a whole handled things in a wonderful, sensitive, and caring way. Thank you!!
    We look forward to see how things progress from here.
    Josh, it was great seeing you back on the Cornelia Marie. And Jake, seeing that you got help was wonderful. God bless you both!!

  • Christopher

    I think his son Josh should step up, and start training for captain. I really respect Jake for getting help man, it’s hard to go through that kinda thing. Really love this show, please let us know if and when the new season will start.

  • H. Veit

    I learned about captain phil’s death with the start of the new episode (I’m living in europe). It was indeed a strange thing to see a raven on a ship. like capt. hansen I had tears in my eyes when I learned capt. phil passed. like the other captains he was a brave and tuff guy and I hope his boys will take his footsteps.
    It was a hopefull lookout at his way back to the sea – seeing a seagull instead of a raven. And I think sig hansen said these seagull remembers to phil harris.

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