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Discovery to air 'Deadliest Catch' marathon Saturday; producers plan tribute to Capt. Phil Harris

February 19, 2010 | 11:20 am


As the Discovery Channel prepares to run a "Deadliest Catch" marathon on Saturday of the best of Capt. Phil Harris' episodes, executive producers of the high-seas reality-docu series are planning their own tribute to the Cornelia Marie captain who died on Feb. 9. The producers and the network also are still mulling how to end the upcoming season, which was still filming when the captain died from a stroke he suffered on Jan. 29.

The sixth season kicks off in April -- no premiere date has been set -- and features Harris' ship once again fishing for opilio crabs.  The tribute would air as a standalone episode, executive producer Thom Beers said in an interview Friday.

"This is five years I filmed with Capt. Phil," Beers said. "We have a long history with him and watching that relationship evolve -- not only our relationship with him, but also his relationship with his sons and in the Bering Sea. It’s just really fascinating to watch. He got closer to his sons in a very dangerous work environment, so we’re going to do a big special for Phil."

Harris was found paralyzed on the floor of his room on Jan. 29 while the Cornelia Marie crew was off-loading crab in Alaska.  After a long operation, he was in a medically induced coma for two days and came out of it.  From his hospital bed, he scribbled on a piece of paper to members of Original Productions, which produces the show: "We gotta have a great ending to this story," Beers said.

Production was working on the last three of 16 episodes when Harris became ill, Beers said.

"We don’t really know exactly how we’re going to handle the hospital material right now," Beers said. We really don’t. But we do now that he’s represented throughout the entire new season. We’ll work with the boys and his family and decide what is tasteful obviously, what’s right and what’s appropriate. We want to celebrate his life, not his death."

"Deadliest Catch" has followed 25 ships in the Bering Sea between Alaska and Russia, but Capt. Harris stood out as a fan favorite.

"He’s the voice of reason," Beers said. "In all the chaos, you know you can always look at Phil to give you the straight answer. When you’re casting a show, you’re always looking for a certain amount of charisma, and Phil had this sense when you looked at him, this kind of soulful, doleful look. Like the weight of the world was on his shoulders. And it wasn't necessarily that he was comfortable with it, but he accepted it."

Moving forward, the Harris family and the series will have to confront the question of the fate of the Cornelia Marie, and the future of Harris' sons, Jake and Josh, and the crew.

"The boys are holding up as much as possible," Beers said. "It’s been tough. They’re a little rudderless right now.  He ran that ship and now they’re having to deal with it themselves. The question now is whether the boys will continue to follow in the footsteps and what their plans are. That’s what the off-season is going to be -- they’ll have to figure it out and we’ll be there to support them whatever they decide."

As a network tribute, Discovery will air a marathon Saturday, beginning at noon. The first two hours will feature scenes from Season 4, some of the captain's greatest moments on the series. From 2 p.m. to 3 a..m., the network will air the second half of the 2009 opilio season in which Capt. Harris returned to  Dutch Harbor after some time away due to health problems.

-- Maria Elena Fernandez (follow me on Twitter @writerchica)

Video: Capt. Phil Harris tribute. Credit: Discovery Channel

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