In place of Ichiro and Adrian Beltre and Felix Hernandez, I've adopted Sig Hansen and Phil Harris and Johnathan Hillstrand as my favorite characters for the summer. These men, in case you're not familiar with them, are captains of Alaskan crabbing boats and the stars of the Discovery Channel's Deadliest Catch, now in its fourth season. They've gone from being anonymous guys who battle the Bering Sea several weeks a year to almost rock-star status. (Hillstrand and his brother Andy have written a book about their adventures on their boat, the Time Bandit, and appeared in Spokane in May to promote it). I'm happy to hear I'm not the only person who has been caught up in the hoopla. These guys have their own fan sites and blogs and viewers can't get enough of them.
What makes the show so popular? Great characters with strong personalities, interesting bit players and intriguing stories. The latest revolves around Harris, who smokes like a chimney, and whether a recent health scare -- a blood clot in his lung -- will drive him off the boat. We see crab fishermen at their best -- as when they rally to rescue their brethren in trouble -- and at their worst -- as in the petty, but oh-so-interesting squabbles on the decks and in the captains' offices. We see Mother Nature throw 100-foot fishing boats around like bathtub toys, sending huge waves washing over decks, soaking deckhands. We see fishing boats get stuck in ice floes, men falling overboard and being plucked out of frigid seas and a glimpse at how dangerous and difficult ocean fishing can be. It's riveting stuff.
Deadliest Catch is as good as TV gets for me -- but that's not saying much considering how little there is on the tube that interests me anymore. Maybe in a month or two I'll find a new favorite, but for now, I'm quite content to sit and watch several hours at a time.
Koppel: The People's Republic of Capitalism
We're all just killing time waiting for The Dark Knight to come out next week. So until then, kick back with the media's loyal butler, Ted Koppel, and listen to a report about up-and-coming global super villain Red China. They've recently discovered the concept of "money," which makes some people very nervous. Here's hoping they don't crush us before Batman opens. (Discovery, Friday, 10 pm)
Heath Ledger's E! True Hollywood Story
Detailing Ledger's life as he went from heartthrob to Serious Actor to dying in a stereotypical fashion. Sad, but most people don't die with their best work still ahead of them, as Ledger's portrayal of the Joker is sure to be regarded. There might be an Olsen twin in there someplace. (E!, Friday, 9 pm)
The Psychology of the Dark Knight
The History Channel strikes gold yet again, this time corralling psychological experts in an attempt to figure out what makes Batman kick so much ass. Personally, I think it had something to do with seeing his parents murdered in front of him. But that's just me. I'm only a layperson. (History, Wednesday, 9 pm)