One of the more colorful characters to gain fame through reality television was beefy, long-haired, leather-clad Duane “Dog” Chapman. The head of a clan of real-life bounty hunters (Da Kine Bail Bonds) based in Honolulu, Hawaii, he mixed macho swagger and tough-talking takedowns with a genuine concern for the fugitives he apprehended, many of whom seemed to be troubled young people who had simply made bad decisions. The mixture of ‘Cops’-like excitement (the buildup, the chase) with a certain amount of heart (Dog offering the perps fatherly advice) made ‘Dog the Bounty Hunter’ a cable hit. Dog and his team used bulletproof vests, handcuffs and mace, but did not carry guns. Surprisingly there was seldom any real violence; apparently their targets were too intimidated by the team’s tough-guy appearance (and perhaps the camera crews) to put up much resistance.
Dog’s team included his plus-sized girlfriend Beth, sons Leland and Duane, Jr. and long time friend Tim, among others. The show often referred to their own troubled pasts: Beth’s first husband was a drug addict, Leland and Duane, Jr., both had violent, troubled youths, Tim was abused as a child (before Dog became his mentor) and Dog himself had served time for armed robbery. After turning his own life around Dog had helped each of them, which made them exceptionally loyal to him.
The series achieved record ratings in 2006 first with a special in which Dog and Beth were married and then in another showing his arrest by U.S. marshals. It seems that officials in Mexico had demanded his extradition, because in 2003 he had gone there to track down serial rapist Andrew Luster – and bounty hunting is illegal in Mexico.
‘Dog the Bounty Hunter’ was spun off from a 2003 episode of A&E’s ‘Take This Job’, a series profiling people with unusual occupations.
Beth Smith: It's a woman's job to outsmart the men.