Deadliest Catch: Some Fans Believe Captain Phil's Tragic Death Was The Show's Turning Point

Discovery's "Deadliest Catch" may have 19 seasons and counting under its belt, but some fans believe the show experiences a major turning point in Season 6, which aired in 2010. From the series premiere in 2005, audiences always get to know a bit about the captains and deckhands, but never anything too personal. Largely, it's all about the dangers of the Bering Sea and filling the pots.

That drastically changes in the last few episodes of Season 6, when F/V Cornelia Marie Captain Phil Harris' emotional last days are chronicled for the world to see. After suffering a stroke off-camera, Harris awakens from a medically-induced coma. As shown on "Deadliest Catch," he's able to spend some time with his sons — Jake and Josh Harris — before passing away on February 9, 2010.

On Reddit, when asked by u/megadeltasniper to name the peak of "Deadliest Catch," u/bceagle responded, "Phil's death might have been a turning point. The 2 episodes concerning his death broke ratings records. I think that's when DC [Discovery Channel] pointed away from fishing and went to the soap opera approach." U/TruthBomb2112 added, "I don't disagree. It was riveting but it was also real. That's what made it great for TV."

Coverage of death was something previously unseen in reality TV

Phil Harris' final moments on "Deadliest Catch" were, without a doubt, a significant and memorable event that made an indelible impact on the show's history. Season 6, Episode 14 ("Redemption Day") garnered 8.5 million viewers, making it Discovery's third-highest-watched telecast at the time. Not only did this episode mark a turning point for "Deadliest Catch," but it also served as a groundbreaking milestone for reality television as a whole.

According to the New York Times, this was the first time a reality TV show incorporated the death of a lead cast member into the story in such a way. Audiences are taken right to Harris' bedside, where he spends his last hours sharing emotional words with his sons. If Discovery's coverage of Harris' demise exploited his pain for ratings, fans probably would've turned away from the show. However, filming was conducted in a tasteful manner (his actual death isn't shown), all at the request of Harris. Cameraman Todd Stanley said, "We always talked about having a beginning, a middle and an end. Without one of those three things, you don't have a story."

Following these heart-wrenching scenes, the personal lives of captains and crew members are featured more heavily on "Deadliest Catch," from Sig Hansen's heart attack to Jake Anderson's search for family history in Norway.