Beth and Duane "Dog" Chapman will return to reality TV, but this… (Associated Press )
Anyone who’s ever laid eyes on Beth Chapman, the costar of former hit reality show "Dog the Bounty Hunter," might think she’s one of a kind, with her lacquered nails, stiletto heels and pink handcuffs.
It turns out she has imitators, and she’s none too pleased with her flashy doppelgangers.
She and her husband, Duane "Dog" Chapman, found several impractically outfitted bounty hunters while playing mentor to mom-and-pop bail bond agencies across the country for an upcoming series on CMT.
“I asked them to change their clothes and put on sensible shoes,” Beth Chapman said recently by phone during a break in filming in Oklahoma City. "These gals need to be able to chase somebody down, hop a fence, run through the woods. Maybe they can add the hair and nails and makeup later, but they have to catch the bad guys first.”
That’s just one of the lessons the Chapmans will try to impart on their new show, “Dog and Beth: On the Hunt,” launching at 8 p.m. Sunday on the cable channel better known for country music videos than law-and-order original programming.
The show marks the return to TV of the flamboyant bounty-hunting duo. They’ve been off the air for 15 months, since "Dog the Bounty Hunter" ended its successful eight-season run on A&E under a cloud of family infighting between Dog, Beth and their three adult bounty-hunting children.
The couple aims to build a new franchise by helping fugitive hunters improve their capture rates, solve their safety issues and, in general, clean up their acts, which can involve wardrobe overhauls.
“Bounty hunting is one of the most dangerous jobs in America,” Dog Chapman said. “We’ve got people getting killed by fugitives, getting hurt, making all kinds of mistakes. We’re trying to put a stop to that.”
There’s been an explosion in the bail bond industry over the last several years, partly fueled by the sluggish economy and also, likely, by the popularity of Chapman and his high-profile Hawaii-based crew.
Where once there were a handful of (mostly) men working in the field, now there are about 14,000 bounty hunters, according to the trade group Professional Bail Agents of the U.S. That rapid growth has brought with it a host of problems, including ill-trained, ill-equipped bail agents and struggling bail bond companies.
The Chapmans, partnering with TV mogul Ben Silverman’s Electus production company, will give tough-love makeovers in the 11-part series, combining the business fix-it subgenre of reality TV with the crime-fighting format. Think of it as a cross between “Hotel Hell” and “Cops.”
“It’s not Sunday school teachers we’re dealing with; it’s the criminal element,” Beth Chapman said. “If you don’t know what you’re doing, they can eat you alive.”
The couple, for instance, finds bounty hunters who carry toy guns to intimidate bail jumpers and paint their cars to look like police vehicles, both big no-nos by professional standards.
The solution involves non-lethal weapons, such as Tasers and rubber bullets, and nondescript cars that aren’t tricked out to look official.
The drama within the Chapman family, which juiced ratings but ultimately sank the A&E series, will still be on display. The couple reunite with son Leland for “On the Hunt,” but their other children remain estranged. Dog and Beth, whose close relationship drives the show, continue to bicker like longtime married folks.
The new show is a major strategic bet for CMT, which has been finding a foothold among viewers with brash original series like “My Big Redneck Vacation” and “Redneck Island.”
Network executives said they reached out to the Chapmans the same day they heard the A&E show had been canceled.
“We’ve had success with personalities that are unapologetic, rowdy, bold and genuine,” said Jayson Dinsmore, executive vice president of programming and development. “That’s Dog and Beth.”
Dinsmore sees “On the Hunt” as a potential breakout hit, a building block for other crime-centric programming and a launching pad for new series. An original reality show, “Guntucky,” about a Kentucky-based family-run firing range, will premiere on its heels Sunday night.
CMT is latching on to a current TV trend that’s been dubbed a redneck renaissance, with shows such as A&E’s “Duck Dynasty” and TLC’s “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” scoring massive ratings and igniting debate about cultural stereotypes.
CMT plans this fall to run “The Dirty South,” a Southern-fried version of “Jersey Shore” from that hit’s creator-producer, SallyAnn Salsano.