September 21, 2010 / 6:51 AM / 7 years ago

Discovery sues Deadliest Catch duo for $3 million

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Most reality TV producers follow a simple format: Capture what happens, and then have cast-members fill in story gaps with voice-overs and cutaways. But what to do when reality TV stars jump ship before sitting down for the required interviews?

Sue them, of course.

Discovery is seeking $3 million in damages after two stars of "Deadliest Catch," Jonathan and Andy Hillstrand, allegedly failed to live up to an agreement to complete a spin-off project.

According to the breach-of-contract lawsuit, filed last week in Maryland Circuit Court, the Hillstrands were to film a one-time special called "Hillstranded." The duo was coming off five seasons of "Deadliest Catch," one of the most popular programs on any Discovery-affiliated network. The special was to document the team's various adventures in Alaska; work unrelated to their jobs as crab fisherman. Two weeks of principal photography was shot in June, but there was still work to do.

"The Hillstrand Defendants determined that they would reverse course, dishonor their promises, and refuse to render the services necessary to complete 'Hillstranded,'" reads the complaint.

At the end of August, Discovery allegedly called the brothers to confirm a date, time and location for them to sit for interviews. The complaint says the only response was an e-mail from a lawyer for the brothers informing producers that they shouldn't attempt any further contact with them.

Discovery argues that the failure by Hillstrands to complete work has caused production on the show to remain uncompleted. The company says that the show would have earned significant ratings and that it has suffered substantial losses as a result.

The Hillstrands' lawyer likened the lawsuit to extortion, and said it might even force his clients to sell their boats and fire their crews. He also took aim at the network's well-paid top executive.

"The recent actions of Discovery Communications are an astonishing and shameful instance of arrogance and greed run amok," attorney Jeff Cohen said in a statement.

"While CEO David Zaslav reaps a $33.9 million bonanza in a single day in January 2010, his company attempts to bankrupt hardworking fishermen. Three million dollars is exponentially greater than any compensation ever paid to the 'Deadliest Catch' captains, and yet this is the figure Discovery is trying to extort from these men.

"Isn't there enough unemployment in America without forcing hard-working sea captains to declare bankruptcy, sell their boats and fire their crews?," he asked.

He also referenced the death earlier this year of Captain Phil Harris, which was chronicled by the show.

"Discovery is a multi-billion dollar corporation making hundreds of millions of dollars from broadcasting the dangerous exploits of our clients. In light of all the tragedy witnessed by Captain Sig (Hansen), Capt. John and Capt. Andy this year, why can't Discovery let these working men move on with their lives?"

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