Fatal attraction: Discovery lures viewers with a morbid theme

CLIFFHANGER: "Little People, Big World" dad Matt Roloff, center, seemed to die on the season finale.
CLIFFHANGER: "Little People, Big World" dad Matt Roloff, center, seemed to die on the season finale. (John Keatley/tlc)
By Lisa de Moraes
Thursday, June 17, 2010

Death becomes Discovery.

The Discovery Channel announced Wednesday that Captain Phil Harris will have the longest death scene in reality-show history, encompassing eight episodes.

Harris, the gruff 53-year-old star of the "Deadliest Catch" series, died Feb. 9 of complications from a stroke he suffered in late January while unloading crab from his fishing vessel in Alaska.

News that Harris died has been very good for the show, which returned in April with original episodes we all knew would be Captain Phil's last. Over the past 10 weeks, "Deadliest Catch" has enjoyed double-digit ratings jumps compared with last season. This season of "Deadliest" has ranked No. 1 among all cable programs on Tuesday nights, averaging nearly 4 million viewers.

Meanwhile, over at Discovery-owned TLC network, the reality series "Little People, Big World" decided to get itself some of that, running a season finale episode Tuesday night that was intended to make viewers think the show's patriarch, Matt Roloff, had gone to the Big Pumpkin Patch in the Sky.

Seen sitting in his tractor-thinggummy on his farm outside of Portland, Ore., Roloff gave a hacking cough and said: "I love this spot. I'm gonna build me a Swiss chalet so I can die happy," as he clutched at his left shoulder and arm and breathed heavily -- left shoulder and arm pain being a possible symptom of a certain type of heart attack.

"That's what I want to do -- die happy. This would be a good place for my ashes, right here," Roloff continued to scenery-chew.

"I want to get burned, so the kids can put my urn -- my ashes -- so I can enjoy the farm: Put the urn up on the tower for a week or so, put it over in the church for a week," he said, still clutching at his left shoulder and giving the camera an all-flesh-is-as-grass look.

A second hacking cough later, he adds: "Every time I tell Amy I'm about ready to die, she says 'Promises! Promises!' Little does she know."

In short order he's seen sitting at his desk, drinking out of a poison-green plastic cup and looking like a character out of a Greek tragedy pursued by the Fates. Cut to a shot of the outside of the house. A loud-ish "ka-thunk" is heard.

The family reacts:

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