Make us your home page

'Deadliest Catch' crew riding a huge TV wave

The Deadliest Catch crew and cast, from left, Johnathan Hillstrand, Andy Hillstrand and Sig Hansen.

Special to the Times

The Deadliest Catch crew and cast, from left, Johnathan Hillstrand, Andy Hillstrand and Sig Hansen.

Forget about watching him scoop up loads of king crab while handling his brother's needling in spine-tingling episodes of Discovery Channel's The Deadliest Catch.

There is nothing that can compare to listening on the other end of a telephone line as Northwestern boat captain Sig Hansen shops for shrimp at Seattle's Pike Street Market.

"These guys just asked me for a picture; this is (expletive) BS," said an irritated Hansen, shooing off fans while bellowing into his cellphone over the market's din. "Right now, I just want to buy some (expletive) shrimp with my father-in-law."

He should know: This is what happens when a worldwide reality TV phenomenon turns your family-run fishing boat into a bona-fide, worldwide brand.

So the Northwestern's official website offers ladies underwear with the "Hansennette's Crest" embossed in pink, while the new Cars 2 movie features Hansen's voice as "Crabby the Boat."

And Hansen has joined fellow Catch mates Andy and Johnathan Hillstrand in a string of live appearances sometimes called the Captains' Tour.

"We kept hearing 'Guys want to know more about your personal life and, you know, the stuff they don't get on the show,' " said Hansen.

Once upon a time, they regaled fans at boat shows. Now, the trio's live show unfolds like a re-creation of the bull sessions during Discovery's After the Catch specials — recaps hosted by narrator Mike Rowe.

Past tour stops have included unreleased video clips, a question-and-answer session, songs played by Andy Hillstrand and a contest where audience members race to don an emergency flotation suit (in real life, if you take longer than 60 seconds, you're already dead).

Joining the likes of Charlie Sheen, Larry King and Cake Boss star Buddy Valastro, the captains have turned their stories into a stage presentation that will pack fans into theaters across the country.

"Fishermen, we're entrepreneurs more than anything," said Andy Hillstrand in a separate interview. "We want to be the Donald Trumps of the sea."

Recent Catch seasons have taken a dark turn as tragedy shadows the men like a bitter shroud. First, the death of Capt. Phil Harris after a stroke sent last year's episodes into a somber place; this year, Harris' sons Josh and Jake struggle to keep their boat in operation, amid allegations that a post-rehab Jake smoked marijuana onboard.

For Andy Hillstrand, the series' recent dark turn hasn't gone over well. "Playing Johnny Cash, everybody's wearing black, (the tagline) 'survive the season, survive each other' … it's like, what the hell are they even talking about?" he said. "We like to have fun doing what we do."

Since Deadliest Catch premiered in April 2005, the show's success has sparked a virtual industry of tough, working-class jobs series, from History channels' Ice Road Truckers to Spike TV's miner-centered Coal.

And even now, despite the obvious dangers, Hillstrand and Hansen are inundated with job applications.

"People don't get it," Hansen said. "I had a bartender friend of mine a couple of years back; he's been asking me for years and years, 'Gimme a job.' So I let him up there and he's like 'When do I get a break? When do we sleep?' He didn't last more than two days."

Still, the captains are living a showbiz-flecked dream, from Tom Hanks praising the show to the possibility Hansen might fulfill his longtime dream of competing on Dancing With the Stars in March 2012.

But Hansen knows where he's headed when his 15 minutes run out. "When all this is over and done with, I'll still be fishing," he said. "That's just the bottom line."


The Captains' Tour

The Deadliest Catch stars Sig Hansen and Andy and Johnathan Hillstrand star in the Captains' Tour at 8 p.m. Saturday at Ruth Eckerd Hall, 1111 McMullen-Booth Road, Clearwater. Tickets are $25-$45 with some VIP at $75. (727) 791-7400,

'Deadliest Catch' crew riding a huge TV wave 06/22/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 22, 2011 9:04pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours