In a previous post, we looked at scripted shows geared to an adult audience. Now, it’s on to reality, which has, by default, often become today’s family viewing.
The three scripted shows I recommended that Catholics watch were The CW’s “The Flash,” Netflix’s “Marvel’s Daredevil” and HBO’s “Silicon Valley.” They’re not to everybody’s taste, but I considered them worth putting on the radar. And, I have watched each of them in the company of orthodox Catholic pals, and we enjoyed them thoroughly and found them great springboards for conversation.
Most serious Catholics know about EWTN, and they know there’s a Catholic family on CBS’ “Blue Blood.” Also, I’ve written before about the Catholic character and executive producer on CBS’ “Madam Secretary.”
My goal was (and is) to look beyond the obvious and offer shows that aren’t perfectly in our wheelhouse but have worthy elements. Some of them had bad language, including blasphemy, some had violence (all those are flagged prominently in the post) — interestingly, none of the first three has much, if any, sexual content — and I trust adult Catholics to be able to figure out what they can can handle.
All that being said, here are three more, this time from the reality genre (no sex in any of them):
“Deadliest Catch” (Discovery): Currently in its 10th season, this reality juggernaut follows the captains and crews of Alaska’s Bering Sea crab fleet, who risk life, limb and livelihood to put seafood on the world’s tables. Some of them profess religious faith, and some of them don’t discuss it — but a Russian Orthodox priest (lots of Russians in Alaska) does bless the fleet each year, and a prayer is broadcast to all. The crabbers are far from a perfect bunch, and substance abuse, onshore legal troubles and divorce are common.
(They also curse a lot, but it’s all bleeped, and the occasional fistfight breaks out. But I know many parents who watch with their school-age kids.)
But the show doesn’t gloss over these difficulties, especially the heartbreaking tale of the late Capt. Phil Harris of the F/V Cornelia Marie, and his two sons, Josh and Jake. Jake, now owner of the Cornelia Marie, is working hard to carry on the Harris legacy in the wake of his father’s sudden death in 2010 at the age of 53. The younger son, Jake, has struggled with drug addiction and appears to currently be in a bad place. It’s an all-too familiar story for families today, and viewers have embraced the Harrises and identified with their problems.
That’s true of all the crab-fleet captains and their families — since most of the boats featured on the show have family members as captains and crews. Emphasis is on the value of hard work, perseverance, endurance, courage and entrepreneurship. There’s even a fantasy game so you can put your own boat to sea.
Pictured: Deckhand Jake Anderson of the F/V Northwestern.
“Deadliest Catch” airs original episodes Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT, often preceded by the talk show “The Bait,” featuring the captains and deckhands.
“Tanked” (Animal Planet): I’m particularly fond of shows that focus on less-common occupations, such as this one about the creation of custom acrylic fish tanks. At the show’s heart is Las Vegas-based Acrylic Tank Manufacturing, or ATM, a family business featuring brothers-in-law Wayde King and Brett Raymer, (at left and right below) and their families and employees. In each episode, they travel to a new location to conceptualize, design, manufacture and install wildly imaginative aquariums for businesses and individuals.
Frequently these days, those folks are celebrities, from Howie Mandel to Seattle Seahawk Marshawn Lynch. I was on set in 2012 for the installation of a tank at a KISS-themed indoor mini-golf in Las Vegas, with the band’s Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley on hand; and then the guys came my way the next year to install a tank in a covered wagon at a Malibu winery.
It’s a clean family show, featuring a clan that argues and laughs in equal measure. Along the way, you can learn the ins and outs of fishkeeping, along with information on a wide variety of sea creatures. And, like “Deadliest Catch,” it’s a window inside a way of life that most people don’t encounter, and its unique rewards and challenges.
“Tanked” airs original episodes on Fridays at 10 p.m. ET/PT.
“American Ninja Warrior” (NBC/Esquire): Filling in the spot in my heart formerly occupied by “Wipeout,” this competition show, based on the Japanese show “Sasuke,” has been on since 2009, starting on the now-defunct G4 Network. It transitioned when G4 became Esquire, and since 2012, has also aired episodes on NBC (all the channels mentioned are part of the NBC Universal family). Currently, it’s airing on both Esquire and NBC.
Competitors assemble in different cities — either chosen by submitting videos or as a walk-on, after sometimes camping out for days — to face a grueling, ever-changing obstacle course. It taxes body and mind, since contestants get to view the course ahead of time, but they don’t get to practice on it. Veteran Ninjas and professional athletes have failed to finish the qualifiers, while amateur walk-ons have made it.
It all culminates in Las Vegas, at a massive, multi-stage course called Mount Midoriyama, after the Japanese original. To date, no American has yet gone all the way to be named American Ninja Warrior, so this year the prize money has doubled to $1M.
Between runs, we learn about the competitors and their lives. As you might expect, a lot of the ones profiled have overcome either personal or family difficulties, or impossible odds. Ninjas train on their own, often with improvised or backyard equipment (and at their own cost), so it’s inspiring in general to see folks with this much focus and dedication.
It’s good fun for all, and if you ever get a chance to attend an “American Ninja Warrior” taping in your town, I recommend it — but bring water, snacks and a blanket. For the visual impact, the show shoots after dark, and into the wee hours of the morning.
This year, I went to the Venice Beach tryouts, and to a tryout for military members in front of the USS Iowa museum ship in Long Beach, California (pictured at top and at right above). Each time, I stuck it out until someone finished the course — that it took more than 20 competitors for that to happen gives you a hint how hard this is — and didn’t get home until after 1 a.m.
While he didn’t make it through the whole course, a Catholic friend of competed in Venice — WITH his scapular.
“American Ninja Warrior” airs Mondays on NBC, and Tuesdays on Esquire, both at 8 p.m. ET/PT.
Images: Courtesy Discovery Channel, Kate O’Hare