Hosted by reality star Duane Chapman, Dog the Bounty Hunter is a proven hit on USA Network, broadcast to more than 7.5 million viewers and ranked as the most watched unscripted cable series on weekdays and the top broadcast crime and reality series on weekend nights.
Although there are many episodes of the series that speak volumes about fine sleuthing (a dog days of summer flashback episode about a Texas hunting club, for example), the show’s most memorable moment is when Duane Chapman finds an incarcerated woman while on a hunt for her nephew.
The image of Chapman throwing up his hands in disgust then singing a version of George Harrison’s “Give Peace a Chance” is burned into memory for television show fans.
But when the show first went on the air in 2002, one unusual element about Dog the Bounty Hunter was that all of the bounty hunters featured in the program were not bounty hunters at all. They were actors.
The show debuted with a wealth of stories about law enforcement’s resourceful use of wigs, prison jumpsuits and security equipment to transport real bounty hunters to white collar crime bail-jumping scenes. But these men and women were actually the subjects of a documentary television series. And the authenticity of the show’s segments was heightened by Dog’s robust support of his bounty hunters. The man was no-nonsense.
That all changed in 2006, when Dog’s real life wife, Beth Chapman, was shot in her back by her husband Duane Chapman and placed in a coma for six months. In the years that followed, Beth Chapman went on to write a book called What Happened to Beth Chapman and started a movie company that took up to 150 actors in real life to pay their dues.
But despite Beth’s return to prominence, the producers of Dog the Bounty Hunter continued to run a show, even in 2009 when Anderson died on the show. The producers allegedly called the family of the actor who played Anderson two weeks after his death to ask for their permission to continue production of the show. The producers refused to tell the family where Anderson’s body was at the time of his death.
In an attempt to raise awareness about not honoring the memory of a loved one, Beth Chapman went on to devote herself to a campaign that resulted in a national movement called the “Life’s a Bounty”, advocating for people and corporations to take pledges not to have unnecessary and fatal encounters with law enforcement.
The Dog the Bounty Hunter situation was not unlike more recent instances of reality show actors appearing as real-life law enforcement officers. For example, Bachelor in Paradise’s contestants have taken part in dangerous drug and illegal immigration “interventions” to perform in fake media opportunities. Even a real police officer who knows her wrong of the law could claim to be an undercover actress when trying to enter a red light.
Most of the time the trend ends when cameras stop rolling. But last year a highly dangerous episode of Fox’s reality show The Masked Singer caused some controversy. The woman who plays an angel on the show quickly found herself admitting she is not an angel and was living as a man.
So, what’s next for Dog the Bounty Hunter? The current plans are to air a season of four episodes focused on a group of police, bad guys and most importantly, men and women bounty hunters. That will continue to air on USA Network until November of this year.
Some suspect the new episodes will feature Dog the Bounty Hunter’s real life wife, Beth Chapman, in what is expected to be her triumphant return to the public eye.
But maybe the network’s hopes are dashed.
At the peak of the original show’s popularity, Dog the Bounty Hunter ran for 111 episodes across ten seasons. With a debut episode that airs tomorrow (Sunday) at 9 pm, Dog the Bounty Hunter has now air 157 episodes. That’s right. More than one hundred.
What will Dog do after the show’s massive success? Well, the Dog is up for his own game show. The Dog Whisperer — Dog the Bounty Hunter — with veteran game show host Ralph Edwards debuts on October 4th at 10pm.