The Discovery Channel has acknowledged that the first episode of Deadliest Catch‘s fourth season, which was the highest-rated debut in the network’s history (3.5 million viewers watched), used footage from two different events and pretended they were from the same event, but denies that anything was re-eneacted despite a production outline that says otherwise.
The opening sequence showed the Wizard being hit by a wave and starting to take on water as it headed to Dutch Harbor. But those two events occurred at different times. As The Hollywood Reporter found, “The boat flooded in September. The huge storm waves were from October.” And more damningly, “a producer may have filmed extra footage to help stitch the two events together,” as an outline for the episode reveals. Here’s what the outline says:
WIZARD ROGUE WAVE: Combine Wizard leak story on 9/26 with the Wizard being hit by a big wave on 10/1 and 10/2. The fiction we are constructing is that the big wave hit the Wizard on their steam up to Dutch — caused a leak in Lenny’s stateroom. In reality these were two separate events. In addition to the original source material, (a producer’s name omitted by THR) shot re-enactment footage.
Discovery president John Ford said that is “a rough draft that was rejected. The Wizard was struck by a big wave, and that wave caused the leak you see in the show. The thing we didn’t have on camera was the actual wave that struck the Wizard. That was shot at a separate time on the same journey and was an insert edit from the show. We did that for story continuity because we didn’t have a boat-to-boat shot. … Everything that you see in the show happened. Nothing is made up and nothing needs to be made up. The Wizard was struck by a big wave, and that wave caused the leak you see in the show. The show is 100% authentic.”
Combing shots like that is not exactly uncommon, and doesn’t, of course, alter the reality of what happened. But significantly, Ford did admit that Deadliest Catch uses “pick-up” shots, having cast members repeat certain actions, which is exactly what Lauren Conrad admits happens on The Hills, which is often criticized for being fake. Discovery’s Ford said, “For certain things, we do pickup shots for continuity. If the camera didn’t run properly when the captain was boarding the boat, they have the captain back up and board the boat again.”
While that sort of behavior may not be uncommon, however sketchy it is, many people like Deadliest Catch largely because it’s not like other reality series and is much more real and consequential. THR notes that “Discovery considers ‘Catch’ a documentary and holds the series to the highest standard.”