When I reviewed the dreadful Sons of Hollywood a few weeks ago, I compared its boring "stars" to the people featured on A&E's other reality shows, who actually do interesting and unusual things. One of the shows I had in mind was Dog the Bounty Hunter, which follows the exploits of Duane "Dog" Chapman and his family as they hunt down fugitives in Hawaii.
For this show, now entering its fourth season, A&E found an absolutely fascinating character. Chapman, with his heavily muscled physique, biker wardrobe, and a mullet of absolutely heroic proportions, certainly looks intimidating (even though he's only 5'7"), but he's actually a pretty nice guy underneath the rough exterior. A devout Christian who leads his family/co-workers in prayer at the end of each workday, Dog genuinely cares about the lowlifes and junkies he tracks down while the cameras roll. He's a sucker for children, too – in the second episode of the new season, while searching for a probation violator, he gets the local kids to swear they'll obey the law, go to school – and become bounty hunters when they grow up. (In many ways, Chapman reminds me of Mr. T.)
Dog – who is accompanied by his wife, sons, and brother, all of whom look like they just got back from Sturgis Bike Week – made headlines last year when he was arrested in Mexico while apprehending an accused rapist. The fourth season begins just after his return to Hawaii, and the legal proceedings (still unresolved) will play a major part as the series continues. The fourth-season premiere, which aired on April 10, shows how Chapman tried to get back into the bounty-hunting game after his forced hiatus; unfortunately, the episode featured little action aside from Dog and Co. driving around Honolulu's seedier neighborhoods and making cell-phone calls while trying to track down a bail jumper.
Fortunately, the second episode (set to air at 10:19PM Eastern – seriously – this Monday night) is much better. Chapman has to find a drug addict born on the exact same date as one of his daughters, who was killed in a car accident last year, so he takes the case more seriously than usual – and has a surprisingly hard time finding her. In this one, we also get a few amusing glimpses at how he has become quite a local celebrity, with one dubious character calling the police to complain about "Dog and a bunch of other people" coming after him.
Dog the Bounty Hunter reminds me of Cops, and like that venerable Fox series, it's hit-and-miss, depending on what cases come up in a given week. But I'd like to hang out with Dog and his family of bounty hunters for an afternoon, and that's one of the major signs that a candid reality show is working.