'After the Catch': Mike Rowe and the Captains Talk Crab, Phil Harris and the Gulf Oil Spill

19665_01575.JPGToday's cuppa: peppermint tea

Tonight at 10 p.m. ET on Discovery Channel, "After the Catch," the companion roundtable show to "Deadliest Catch," returns for its sixth season, again featuring the salty sea captains and deckhands of the Bering Sea crab fleet talking about what did and didn't wind up on camera during filming for the documentary series.

(In photo, l to r: Jake, Phil and Josh Harris)

But this season, the captain's table will be short one member, since Cornelia Marie Capt. Phil Harris passed away in February after suffering a stroke. Click here and here for details. Click here for a story posted yesterday with "Deadliest" producer Thom Beers about tonight's episode.

After a few seasons away for scheduling reasons, "Dirty Jobs" host Mike Rowe, who also narrates "Deadliest Catch," returns to the moderator chair for "After the Catch," which has filmed in many different famous fishing ports. This season, it's New Orleans, which, along with the rest of southern Louisiana, has suffered from multiple hurricanes and, now, from the massive Gulf oil spill.

(The President speaks tonight briefly at 8 p.m. Eastern -- live in all time zones -- about the spill and the cleanup.)

"That was planned," says Rowe, "probably six or seven months ago, before the hurricane, before Phil, before everything. It was just very, very surreal, sitting there with four of the famous fishermen in the world, in maybe one of the most famous port cities in the world, in the midst of maybe the biggest eco-calamity in the world, with an empty chair, a duck fart and a picture where Phil would have been, looking back, in five hours, over the whole season.

"There was endless stuff to talk about,and it was really instructive. The guys are way more
After_the_catch_Andy_Hillstrand_Phil_Harris_Josh_Sig_Hansen 6-4-2010 2-54-00 AM.jpg forthcoming than they used to be, and more comfortable than they used to be -- or as comfortable as you can be when it's 105 degrees, your buddy's gone, and you're trying to make sense of it."

(In photo, l to r), Capt. Andy Hillstrand, Capt. Phil Harris, Josh Harris, Capt. Sig Hansen)

For a show whose very name emphasizes the dangers of crab fishing in the icy Bering Sea, it is an irony that Harris was struck on dry land, that he didn't perish at sea.

"Which is exactly what we've trained everybody to expect," Rowe says. "When's the wave coming? When's the fire coming? When is the sinking? When is the calamity? These guys are prepared for it, and the viewers are prepared for it.

"Then all of a sudden, he has a stroke -- off-loading on the dock? It's so mundane; it's so relatable."


Along with the other captains, Harris' deckhand sons Jake and Josh also appear on "After the Catch," and it's understandably emotional.

"There are times when we have to stop shooting," Rowe says.

mikerowe_dirtywars_240.jpgSince Rowe (at left) has been involved with the show since the beginning, he feels it helped for him to be there at this time.

"I've worked on every one of their boats,"
Rowe says. "I've been to six funerals in Dutch Harbor (Alaska), in the course of shooting the show. I've gotten drunk with these guys. I've bailed one out of jail. They know me.

"It just means you can have a conversation instead of a performance. That's basically what we wanted."

(Click here for footage of a jazz funeral held for Harris in New Orleans; click here for a "Larry King Live" segment featuring the captains and Rowe talking about the Gulf oil spill.)