For eight seasons, bounty hunter Duane “Dog” Chapman’s philosophy toward his prey was “find ‘em and fix ‘em.”
But unlike the popular former A&E show, “Dog the Bounty Hunter,” new project “Dog and Beth: On the Hunt” features the world’s most famous blonde bail bonds tag team focusing their reclamation projects on those who share their profession.
At first glance, Sunday’s debut episode on CMT seems to mirror sadistic chef Gordon Ramsay’s dueling shows, “Hell’s Kitchen” and “Kitchen Nightmares” -- the former more fire and brimstone for fire and brimstone’s sake; the latter a more cerebral approach about how to save a business that guarantees a smaller but perhaps more advertiser-coveted audience.
For the "On the Hunt" debut Dog and Beth head back to their native Colorado to drop in on bail bonds couple Mike and Rene Vester. Beth Chapman’s rants about shoddy bail bonds record-keeping are legendary, and on this new show the language is just as salty.
“What’s the ******* food chain here?” Beth screams at Rene over who at their business is writing such questionable bonds.
The initial focus on file-keeping instead of alley fights creates concern that the new show is going to be nothing more than accounting on steroids.
While Beth caterwauls, Dog offers the same trailer-park philosophical passages that has made him this generation’s Rocky Balboa.
“The Bible says, ‘You’ll know them by their fruits,’ he says to Mike and bounty hunters Lumumba and Ken. “In our world their fruits is their rap sheets.”
The premise of the show is improving the business’ bottom line and making sure everyone gets home from the hunt OK. Dog schools his bounty-hunting brethren on how to investigate more efficiently and safely. In the end the same expletive-filled, late night captures with fugitives’ neighbors either cheering them on or essentially forming a torch-holding mob to chase them out are there.
The biggest question is whether the show can gather the same audience with a revolving cast of characters. For better or worse, on the former show the drama the Chapman family faced while running a business was just as compelling as the chases themselves. (Dog and son Leland get arrested for making an illegal arrest in Mexico; Dog’s daughter, Barbara, dies in a car accident on Dog and Beth’s wedding day; Dog’s son, Duane Lee, leaves the business over his father’s overbearing ways; Dog’s daughter, Baby Lyssa, gets arrested for going on a drunken rage after her marriage fails; etc., etc.).
Sunday’s episode was essentially a dress rehearsal. By being in Colorado the Chapmans were able to take their family to the rodeo, the kind of lighthearted fare that created a breather from “Dog the Bounty Hunter” family and bail-jumper travails. Who knows if that element will still be present as the show progresses?
In future episodes the Chapmans will go all over the country to help bail bonds businesses. With much of the drama fixed on folks nobody has an emotional bond to, will anybody care? On “Dog the Bounty Hunter,” Dog’s back-seat devotionals with cigarette-smoking, crack-withdraw-suffering fugitives created that instant hook when the family squabbles didn’t take center stage. On Sunday's show, Dog's charges were doing the "fixin," and for entertainment's sake it was a poor substitution.
Dog and Beth say the idea for the new show came from people getting into the business thanks to “Dog the Bounty Hunter” and focusing on the glory instead of the nuts and bolts. In last week’s preview special the murder of two young bailman brothers from Bakersfield, Calif., reinforced the point, with Dog comforting the grief-stricken father in his front yard.
Sunday’s show ended with the team taking out an alleged rapist, a crime more vile than most of what Dog and Beth chased folks for on their former show.
In the end, it’s tough to tell whether there will be more or less for viewers to get caught up in. For those who were tired of the Chapman family overpowering the original “Dog the Bounty Hunter” premise, a departure might be just what the doctor ordered.
If not, and “Dog the Bounty Hunter” reruns are enough to satiate their following, Dog and Beth may end up hunting a new TV gig -- and the Montell Williams infomercial route might be the only thing left.