In a fierce but heretofore little-known battle of wits and wrists, Yankee boat captains launched a surprise naval attack, sweeping into Carolina waters and challenging ever-colorful Outer Banks mariners in the ages-old competition for the plucky, elusive bluefin tuna.
No, please wait. There’s more, so many more cliches to dispense in telling you about “Wicked Tuna: North vs. South” debuting 10 p.m. Sunday on the National Geographic Channel.
Our fishermen are shotgun-totin,’ Jesus-quotin’ salts of the sea. Their captains are stubborn, rough-hewn descendants of whalers and witches, genetically programmed to home in on “monstah” fish.
These sons of Gloucester shock and surprise our Wanchese hotheads by cresting the winter horizon on the first day of tuna season. “Who are those guys?” go our guys. Invaders from the North?
Yes! Greedy fish pirates who talk funny. Completely unexpected!
But, by one of the greatest, most fortunate flukes in the rich history of maritime coincidences, there just happens to be a National Geographic film crew on each vessel in the warring fleets, from the first surprise encounter to until the last bloody hook is baited.
For those of you immune to sarcasm, that means the entire conflict is absolute “unscripted” hokum, except from the point of view of the fish, who sacrifice their lives in the name of reality TV.
After three entertaining seasons of “Wicked Tuna,” focusing on the day-to-day exploits of New England captains Dave Marciano and Tyler McLaughlin and others, it has become time to expand the franchise southward because you just can’t have enough docudrama when you’ve got an insatiable cable channel to fill.
National Geographic, which inexplicably lends its respected nameplate to a television venture that preys upon the public’s dimmest intellect with thinly produced Atlantis hunts and lifeless UFO “investigations,” should actually be proud of this high-minded contrivance that achieves a level of authenticity matched only by the master artists of professional wrestling.
There is a wee teachable moment in the fray. If you listen closely, you will learn that bluefin tuna, the supporting actors in this combat movie, are all but done for. Since the 1950s, they’ve been fished to levels where their sustainability is questionable, and so the season lasts only until 23 tons of their wriggling flesh has been plucked from the biosphere, a restriction the captains readily support with every fevered ounce of their ecological consciences.
No, of course not! Just kidding.
Really, that means the cutthroat fishermen must prowl the depths day and night to gaff these gigantic fish that can bring more than $10,000 per carcass in the short weeks before the limit is reached. And, in fairness to the captains, they’ve never caught a tuna that didn’t open its own mouth first.
Anyway, back to the cliches. This adventure yarn is awash in them:
• Yankee boatmen agog at the treacherous seas, ominously known as “The Graveyard of the Atlantic.”
• A psychological battle of man’s mastery of the sea, symbolized by the eternal burden of a new first mate who forgets to unhook from shore power before shoving off.
• And the uncivil war between North and South in which a little gunplay is tolerated to maintain boundaries.
So they don’t have storms, egos and horseplay enough up North? They have to come down here to find it? Go figure. Go fish.