Against all odds, Dog the Bounty Hunter has become my favorite television show. Ordinarily I have no patience for reality shows, but Dog is somehow in a different category. Dog is a bounty hunter, hunting down fugitives along with his wife Beth, his sons Leland and Duane Lee, his brother Tim, whom he calls Youngblood, and his daughter, whom everyone calls Baby Lyssa. Each bounty-hunting member is all but indescribable. Leland and Tim both sport partially shaved heads with long, ornately secured rat-tail style ponytails. Beth is a shockingly voluptuous, shockingly big-haired blonde. Duane Lee looks like your everyday thug. And Dog: with his generous assortment of heavy chains and leather wrist-wraps, constantly worn wraparound sunglasses, and his own shockingly long, big blonde mane with a regularly changing selection of clip-on hair ornaments streaming down either side of his weather-worn face, he is a character who proves that real life trumps fiction every time. One of the most remarkable aspects of the bounty hunters’ get-ups is that the men wear bullet-proof vests without any shirts on underneath. Everyone is generously tattooed.
There’s never a dull day for Dog and his crew, and when a bounty call comes in, they swiftly propel themselves into action. They call the bounty-requester on the speaker phone and listen as a mother, husband, wife, or sister pleas for Dog to save their loved one from their own self-destructive ways. “We’ll do an intervention, honey,” Dog promises. Dog is always full of love and reassurance. To his family, he grins and says, “It’ll be a good chase.” They then gather in the parking lot for a prayer, holding hands in a circle, and pile into two enormous vans driven by Beth and Tim to chase their bounty.
And chase they do—shouting and running, yelling at one another to run, run, as Beth follows, cursing, in her van. They always catch their fugitive, who always seems ready and willing to reform. In the back seat of the van post-capture, Beth and Dog sit on either side of him or her, lecturing about love, family, hope, and the promise of the future. Before bringing the quarry to prison, they take them back to the office for more heart-to-heart, and perhaps a teary, promise-filled phone call to the fugitive’s family. Beth and Dog always hug the quarry just before releasing them to prison, saying “I love you,” and “Call me.”
There’s nothing not to love about Dog the Bounty Hunter. It is just pure outlandish fun, made more so because it’s actually real. Dog is scary, with such a dark, ex-convict past as well as some genuine sad family tragedy (a daughter died the day before his wedding to Beth), yet so nurturing. But my favorite thing about the show is that it takes place in Honolulu, a fittingly random spot. I started watching Dog the first week we moved to CA—we stumbled onto it in our room at the Hyatt—and I think what I like most about the show is that I recognize something about this world they inhabit, this strange, distant Hawaiian world. Who lives in Honolulu, really? What kind of life could one possibly have there? Watching Dog, intensely hunting his bounty in a city that seems more make-believe than reality, I recognize the strange, distant world as similar to my own. Who lives, really, in Citrus Heights? It’s an un-real place, dramatically separated from everything I know. And there’s not even a Dog here to redeem it.