Alaskan crab fishing is an incredibly brutal job: brutal waves, freezing temps, rough waters, large machinery, swinging crab pots that weigh tons, a 100% chance of injuries and worse. The men are away from their families and are never entirely sure whether or not they will ever see them again. One false move while on-board and that can be a tragic end. It is a demanding job, but it is also an extremely profitable one that can have a family set until next season. The greenhorns (new members of the crew) get the hardest tasks and have to earn the respect of their fellow crewmembers. The harsh experiences that the greenhorns must face are a focus of the series, although all crew members are profiled at one point or another.
"Deadliest Catch" is a Discovery Channel series that follows a fleet of fishing boats as the season starts up and the crab boats head out into the Bering sea. Each crew scrambles to prepare and finalize their strategies as they await the official start of the season - no pots can be dropped until the exact, regulated time. On the other end, when the authorities announce the season end (and the end seems to come quicker and quicker every year; what was once months-long is now a matter of days) - that's it.
"Deadliest Catch" is stressful to start with and, while there's some triumphs throughout the series, we often see the nightmares start to pile up. In the second episode, we're told that one ship has a problem with the hold where the crabs are secured. If a crab is injured or killed while sloshing around in the seas, it releases a toxin that can destroy other crabs and cause a chain reaction that can wipe out an entire catch. Only the live crabs earn money.
Every moment that the boat is doing repairs is a moment where they could be fishing and making money. The captains have to make gambles with where they fish and sometimes, that doesn't pay off. Given that the crabs are the only place where the money is, a pot brought up with only a couple of crabs means that the men are essentially risking their lives (and we are shown some very, very scary moments throughout the series where men are injured or swept overboard) for little money. Morale has to be kept up, and that's not always easy when things aren't happening and everyone on-board is running on little sleep. When there's time to eat, the crew eats what they can - we're shown a grocery bill for one boat that hits nearly $3,000.
The first four episodes have viewers ride along with the crab boats, and it's riveting throughout the show. I wouldn't be surprised if most people who've eaten crab aren't aware of the kind of effort required to get that crab from the sea to the plate.
Episode 5 starts again and the conditions are even worse. Now, the boats (some of the same and some new boats) are headed out in the middle of January, where the temperatures are more brutal, wintery storms are common, the waters rougher (some insane rogue waves are shown) and the conditions in general more dangerous. It's not long after the boats go out to sea that the weather starts to deteroriate and disaster strikes: one boat has gone missing. When dawn breaks, it becomes apparent that tragedy has struck and it's both heartbreaking and devastating to watch the search unfold. Before the sun sets on the day, more sadness occurs.
"Deadliest Catch" is simply riveting stuff from the first moment onward. The cameras provide incredible access as we view several groups of men pushing themselves to their very limits in the hopes that the next pot to be pulled up from the depths of the sea will contain the payoff that will provide for their families. It's a powerful series, quite easy to get hooked on and highly recommended.
VIDEO: "Deadliest Catch" is presented by Image Entertainment in the show's original 1.33:1 full-frame aspect ratio. Image quality is, aside from a few issues here-and-there, quite good. Sharpness and detail are terrific, aside from a few moments where, understandably due to conditions, the image looks soft or is obscured a bit by water or fog on the lens. Some minor shimmer appears (and some slight noise is visible in the darker scenes, understandably), but the picture is otherwise clean and clear, with the few bright colors that do appear looking rich and bold.
SOUND: The show is presented in stereo, and the soundtrack offered crisp, clear dialogue/narration.
EXTRAS: Sadly, none. I'd have loved to have seen some deleted/extended scenes, profiles, commentaries or other odds and ends.
Final Thoughts: Reality TV does not get more compelling than "Deadliest Catch", a fascinating and often stunning series that follows men as they attempt to risk everything on the potential payoff that lies beneath the surface of the sea. The DVD set offers no extras, but fine audio/video quality. Highly recommended.