I’ve decided to watch something that isn’t the news tonight, to try and keep myself from yelling at everyone about oil spills and plastic again, and I’ve found a television program called River Monsters.
It’s a nature documentary hosted by Jeremy Wade, a man who describes himself as an “extreme angler.”
The big difference between Jeremy Wade and the guys on Deadliest Catch is that Jeremy Wade uses a fishing pole, and he doesn’t have a boat. I’m not sure it’s still angling if you use a net, and also on Deadliest Catch, aren’t they catching crab? They’re extreme crabbers, is what they are.
There was another show on in the nineties, a spinoff of the X-Files called Millenium. It centered on Frank Black, a serial killer profiler who worked for the FBI until he started getting photographs of his wife and daughter in the mail.
Then he stopped chasing serial killers for a while, thinking he was attracting the attention of serial killers. I really don’t think that’s how it works, but that’s what happened, so I can’t exactly argue.
Frank Black had seen so many serial killings that it was hard for him to get them out of his mind. Eventually, he went to Seatlle with his family, and started working for the shadowy Millenium Group, a bunch of weirdos who also chased down serial killers, but who turned out to be sort of evil themselves.
Anyway, I didn’t watch Millenium much, because it was a real downer. Frank Black was played by Lance Henrickson, and he had this obsessed, hollow-eyed demeanor, always getting a bunch of crap from his wife about chasing serial killers, a weird sort of normal conversation taking place in Crazy Land. Like everyone’s wife, she thought he should work a little less, spend more time with his family.
But Frank Black was haunted by the awful things he knew about humanity. He’d drag his horrifying knowledge around with him all day, his wife nagging at him – you chase serial killers too much and it makes you creepy and unpleasant and you missed Jordan’s soccer game!
Damn it, chasing serial killers is what I do! Etc.
That’s who Jeremy Wade is, from what I can tell, except if he’s got a wife I’ve never seen her.
Oh, but he’s haunted. He’s haunted by the knowledge that there could very well be fish swimming in various rivers around the world which are large enough to potentially eat a small human being.
That’s a lot of pretty specific qualifiers in his obsession, I know, but they’re all important. For instance, a small human being is a child – so these could also be described as fish large enough to eat a Siberian Husky or a deer.
He’s got that deadpan, British-accent narration thing going, where they’ll show him interviewing a native, and the translator will tell him, “She says the fish was extremely large, and ate her dog.”
Jeremy Wade will snap off a sudden, knowing glance – yes, that sounds like a fish large enough to potentially eat a small human being all right. My old nemesis, we meet again.
Then he’ll start with the voiceover as he’s walking the banks of the river in question – “Lots of people like to live their lives in a dream world, where they don’t have to think about fish which are large enough to potentially eat a small human being, but don’t kid yourself. I’ve been tracking these types of monsters for many years now, and they’re very real.”
Tracking them. Tracking the fish.
Usually they are some kind of big, silly catfish, and I’ve never seen him actually catch one large enough to potentially eat a small human being. I’ve seen him catch some comically large catfish, though, and then he points out, well, if this one was larger, then it could potentially eat a small..
Human being, yes we got it.
I have mixed feelings about Jeremy Wade, because first of all, I’m delighted that he gets to go around doing this. I really, really wish my job was to travel around the world looking for giant fish, or really looking for anything. I’d be dead serious about it, too.
But it does seem like they must have really been running out of ideas for nature shows when they came up with this one, and I’ll bet he pitched it quite a few times before he got the green light. But now it’s on Season Two – so I guess his message is getting out there.
He takes himself incredibly seriously, like the guards at the Buckingham Palace who aren’t allowed to flinch. Last night he was telling me about another potentially enormous fish and said, “There’s nothing for me to do now, but try and hook one of these beasts, and drag it onto land for study.”
Nope, I can’t think of anything to do other than that, either. What are you using, some kind of tow truck with a chain and a goat hooked to it?
Oh. You’re using a fishing pole. All right, that’s fine.
No, it’s cool, that’s probably some kind of monster pole, I gotcha. I was just thinking, well – you just referred to them as lions lurking beneath the river’s surface, I thought maybe a harpoon gun or a bazooka.
You know what you’re doing. Fish on, Mr. Wade.
So he does, and after a while he gets a little action on the line, and he tells me again by voiceover, “After years of fishing, I’ve developed a kind of sixth sense about it – I know when there’s a very large fish on the line, and this is a very large fish.”
A very specific sixth sense there. A divine gift, to be sure, but it seems to me he’s pretty lucky he ever discovered that he has that particular gift. Maybe lots of us have that gift, like X-Men who haven’t figured out our powers yet.
Jeremy Wade’s sixth sense told him that the fish was about to get away, and so he did that old Crocodile Hunter thing where he jumped into the river with his fishing pole, and then they cut to commercial, and I forgot to go back and check to see if he was able to drag the Volkswagen-sized superfish onto land, or if it ate him, or what.
But I’ll tell you, it’s good to know he’s out there, watching the borders for the rest of us while we glide along in our dream world façade, blissfully unaware that in some remote places in the world, the fish might grow large enough to potentially eat a small human being.
It’s really not funny – there are these big crazy catfish/carp things that used to go around yanking toddlers right under the water. You should have seen Jeremy Wade’s face when the old woman told him the stories and showed him a couple of old drawings about it.
His eyes narrow, like the grizzled shark hunter from Jaws. Except he is a grizzled unusually-large-freshwater-fish hunter. Tracker, really – he can look at fin tracks in the mud and tell you how long ago the fish walked by, and how much change was in its pockets.
His jaw kind of snaps shut, too – he’s not the kind of guy to say I Told You So, but that really large fish she just described – that’s exactly what he’s been trying to tell us about all along.
He seems to be growing impatient with the rest of us, and our dew-eyed ignorance when it comes to freakishly big fish – when will we ever learn?
I don’t know, Mr. Wade. I just don’t know.