Jaco Marais/Gallo Images/Getty Images
Jaco Marais/Gallo Images/Getty Images
Maybe Deadliest Catch needs a new first mate.
Though a proposed reality show about Abby Sunderland's ultimately unfulfilled dream to sail solo around the world took on water ages ago, a documentary special about the California teen's attempt to circumnavigate the globe still has wind in its sails.
A source tells E! News that Magnetic Entertainment, which approached Abby's family about a show featuring their plucky daughter, has already shot a ton of footage and may still release a documentary.
"The agreement that the Sunderlands had with Magnetic Entertainment had no end date on it," says the source. "All of the footage belonged to them."
The reality show didn't work out for various reasons, not least of which was the controversial nature of its subject matter: a 16-year-old girl whose parents gave her their blessing to take off alone on a harrowing journey that, according to the plan's critics, was only undertaken to break some pointless record.
"Sponsorships were very hard to come by because they were not interested in putting their company name or brand on that boat because they felt it was endangering Abby," the source tells E! News.
"That's exactly why the reality show didn't take as well. Advertisers and networks were comparing it to another ‘Balloon Boy.' They didn't want to get involved because they were afraid something was going to happen to Abby."
Laurence Sunderland, Abby's father, also told reporters that Magnetic was having trouble selling the show, but added that the production company had opted in the end to focus on the mortal danger Abby was in—theoretical exploitation that he and his family couldn't stomach.
"They were assuming Abigail was going to die out there," he told the L.A. Times.
Abby was plucked out of the Indian Ocean by Australian and French sailors last week when they responded to distress signals she sent out when major waves snapped the mast on her 40-foot sailboat, Wild Eyes.
E!'s source claims, however, that Magnetic wasn't aware at first just how precarious Abby's situation out on the high seas would be and then pulled the plug on the show after equipment issues forced her to stop in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, in February.
"Along the course of filming and working with the family certain things started to seem off about the whole situation," says the source. "We thought that Abby was more trained than it turned out she was....I don't really think that everybody had the facts as to how many hours of training this girl really had."
The Sunderlands, whose son Zac was 17 when he completed his round-the-world trip (his route differed from Abby's), have maintained that Abby was entirely prepared for the challenge and was an exceptional kid with big dreams, which they encouraged.
"[Magnetic Entertainment's] idea was to do an inspiring show about Zac and Abby's adventures, what our family was like and what made them as strong and independent as they are," Abby's mom, Marianne Sunderland, wrote on Abby's trip blog Tuesday.
"The show was shopped and not sold. All rights were returned to us. There is no reality TV show or documentary in the works and we will not be persuing one. We find it ironic that the media, who are spreading gossip and sensationalizing Abby's story for profit, have the nerve to criticize us for supposedly doing the same thing— very ironic."
Just in case her story never makes it to PBS or the Discovery Channel, et al., Abby is already penning a book about her adventure.
"I think that a lot of people are judging me by the standards they have for their teens and other teens that they know...and thinking 'she's exactly like them,'" Abby told the Associated Press by phone from the Kerguelen Islands, where her rescue boat docked briefly en route to reuniting her with her family.
"They don't understand that I've sailed my whole life, and I do know what I'm doing out there. Storms and bad weather, it's the chance you take when you're sailing around the world. And I was up for it, and my parents knew I was."