Discovery’s best reality series, Deadliest Catch and Alaska Experiment, return tonight

It’s Alaska Week on the Discovery Channel, and as part of that, the network’s two best reality shows return tonight: the dysfunctional functioning crab-fishing pseudo-families of Deadliest Catch and a new group of out-of-their-element volunteer survivalists on The Alaska Experiment.

First, Deadliest Catch debuts its fifth season at 9 p.m. ET. As usual, it starts with the king crab season and the usual fleet, and will shift to the opilio crab season midway through its run. Because we’ve seen the crew load and unload crab pots countless times, it’s more clear than ever before that the real drama and entertainment comes from the cast, the boats’ crew members. Those who aren’t actually related to each other still have family-like interaction, and it’s watching them–whether they’re working, fighting, having fun, or all three–that really makes the series compelling.

At 10 p.m., The Alaska Experiment: Out of the Wild debuts with a new format and new producers. Instead of living in the wild for three months, the volunteers will spend about a month trying to get out of the wilderness. That makes it slightly more contrived, as they’re following a map and stopping at pre-determined points, but they still have to struggle to survive as they have limited supplies and no food.

In fact, one of the show’s new executive producers,
Eddie Barbini, told me in January
that they wanted “to limit their resources as much as possible” and “make it much more raw than it was last time” in order to “bring [the cast] to the brink of their breaking point.” He also said they chose “relentless” terrain. That’s not yet quite obvious in the first episode, which focuses mostly on the group’s bad decisions. They don’t yet have a major impact, but it’s early in their journey.

Deadliest Catch and Alaska Experiment: Out of the Wild [Discovery]

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.