The reality show prepares to deal with the passing of Phil Harris; plus, Joaquin Phoenix doc might get released in theaters, and ''Heroes'' may return?but not for now

By Lynette Rice and Nicole Sperling
June 25, 2010 at 04:00 AM EDT

Deadliest Catch deals with a beloved captain’s death
Overwhelmed by the outpouring of sympathy from fans, the Discovery Channel will devote the remaining six episodes of Deadliest Catch to the passing of Phil Harris, the captain of the crab boat Cornelia Marie who died Feb. 9 after suffering a stroke. The depiction of his illness and death began June 22 and will culminate with the show’s season finale on July 27. ”This is one of the harder stories in our history,” says Discovery president Clark Bunting. ”It’s the full arc of Phil’s life — not just what happened to Phil and the boys, but also the rest of the fleet.” Though the six-year-old show’s sad turn has resulted in record ratings — with 3.7 million viewers, this is the series’ most-watched season to date — Bunting would like to lighten the mood when Catch returns for its seventh season next spring. Trouble is, it’s not so easy to predict what a motley crew of crab catchers will do next. ”There aren’t a bunch of writers sitting around saying, ‘Okay, what are we going to do next year?’ The story has yet to play out. We don’t know who will be the owner of the Cornelia Marie. Part of the reason people are drawn to [the show] is because it’s authentic.”

Heroes may live on…but not yet
Heroes creator Tim Kring seems in no hurry to wrap up his canceled NBC series with a TV movie next season. Busy creating interactive content for Nokia via, Kring tells EW that a movie ”needs a little distance” and hints that NBC may not be involved. ”The Heroes brand was about ordinary people waking up to extraordinary powers. These volumes can go on. Clearly, there is an entire world and a number of platforms that this property could live in.”
Lynette Rice

Is it for real? Joaquin Phoenix doc may be close to a deal.
Audiences may soon be able to decide for themselves whether Joaquin Phoenix‘s strange, yearlong quest to become a rapper represented a life spiraling out of control or a brilliant piece of performance art. Sources tell EW that Magnolia Pictures, the indie distribution company owned by Mark Cuban, is in negotiations to distribute the documentary I’m Still Here: The Lost Year of Joaquin Phoenix, directed by Phoenix’s brother-in-law Casey Affleck. (Magnolia did not respond to calls for comment, and Affleck’s and Phoenix’s agents declined to comment.) Although the movie has not been screened for EW, a source who has seen it describes it as ”a train wreck in slow motion.” The doc chronicles Phoenix’s quest to launch a rap career, a goal that involves a desperate attempt to land a meeting with Sean ”Diddy” Combs. It’s unclear even to those who have seen the film whether it’s a hoax. (At various times, Phoenix is shown having sex with hookers, snorting cocaine, and engaging in other volatile behavior.) But that mystery, in the end, may be the primary selling point.
Nicole Sperling