'Deadliest Catch': Mike Rowe talks Jake, Josh and Phil Harris and the reality behind TV
This season, he's also returned as host of "After the Catch," which launched last week, the companion roundtable show to "Deadliest," in which he shares tales of the sea with the captains and crew of the featured Bering Sea crab-fishing vessels. It airs at 10 p.m. Eastern, right after new episodes of 'Deadliest."
Of course, this year, there's an empty chair, since Capt. Phil Harris of the Cornelia Marie lost his life to the effects of a stroke (which viewers will see in Tuesday's "Deadliest Catch" episode).
Harris suffered from ailments common to many men, not just crab captains, and the event that eventually ended his life took place on land. Although few viewers will captain a vessel in heaving seas, Rowe feels that fans could definitely relate to Harris, his problems and his rocky relationships with his two deckhand sons, Josh and Jake (caught stealing his father's pain medication in the last episode).
"You can relate to Phil," says Rowe, "because his problems are so mundane and everyday. To me, that's the big lesson of the show. On the one hand, it's so extreme that people shake their heads, 'It's the most dangerous job in the world. How do they do it?' On the other hand, there are a thousand instances in every episode where people shake their heads and go, 'Yeah, you know what, I feel that way at work sometimes.'"
The Harris boys have also become a large part of the show, as they work side-by-side with each other and with their father -- a situation that makes for much yelling and conflict, along with humor and deep affection.
The July 13 episode of "After the Catch" focuses on Harris and the Cornelia Marie and features guest appearances by Jake and Josh Harris.
"There's a ton of pressure on these kids," says Rowe, "because even though it's unscripted and it's nonfiction, the public understands narrative thought. What's supposed to happen is these two kids are supposed to take over the boat. The crew is supposed to rally behind them, and through a stiff upper lip, uncommon courage and some good luck, they're supposed to bring in a giant catch and save the day.
"So, the problem is, you go down an unscripted, real road, and the pressure to deliver some kind of wish fulfillment doesn't go away. I can't speak for the kids, but I do know there's an enormous amount of pressure, both on the production and the crew and the boat and Jake and Josh, because they all feel it.
"They understand what we would like to see, and whether or not that's going to happen, of course, is an entirely different matter."
It's obvious to fans that Phil Harris believed -- or wanted to believe -- that younger son Jake would follow in his footsteps. But Rowe believes, as it's real life, it's more complicated than that.
"Josh is affirmatively interested in being an entrepreneur, a captain, an owner," says Rowe. "He wants to make a run, and he also wants, to the extent he's able, to leverage his notoriety. He's looking at all angles.
"Jake, I think, is just trying to figure it out. He's just a kid, it seems to me -- a savvy one, a helluva worker. You just can't keep peeling the onion layers back on a situation like this, because in the end, you're way past the narrative, and you're really into somebody's life."
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Photo credits: Getty Images, Discovery Channel