Since 2004, Duane “Dog” Chapman has fronted a string of reality TV hits, beginning with the original Dog the Bounty Hunter series which ran for a total of eight seasons.
His latest outing delivers what fans have come to expect – Dog and his family of hunters, ruthless in their pursuit of criminals on the run – but is also a more personal and affecting affair than usual. Starting tonight on UK channel BLAZE, 10-part series Dog’s Most Wanted opens with Chapman’s wife Beth having received news that her cancer – which had previously gone into remission – has returned.
Beth passed away on 25th June 2019, aged 51, and the series provides an unflinching and emotional look at her final days and the aftermath.
“I always made her stand back and I went through the door first,” Dog tells RadioTimes.com, recalling the couple’s time together hunting fugitives in front of the cameras. “This is the first time ever… she went through this door first. It’s one of the worst feelings in the whole world.”
The decision to continue filming on Dog’s Most Wanted in spite of Beth’s illness was one she took herself – and though Dog himself had reservations, he later grew to understand how working on the show helped distract and comfort his wife.
“I didn’t necessarily like it [at first],” he admits. “It was her, she wanted to do it… ‘cause we had talks. I said, ‘Beth, it’s not… you don’t have to show people this’, and she’s like, ‘I do want to, I want to show ’em’ – so it was mostly for her, because she wanted to show it. Personally, me? I wouldn’t have done that. but she wanted it so she got it.
“But what I noticed about it was when we were not filming, she was sick, right? But when we were filming, she forgot about it and she was out there laughing… that was the main thing, I could see that it was helping her to stay working, to keep her mind off of that, so that meant a lot and was a big part of the filming of the show.”
The series’ final episode, titled “Farewell to a Queen”, sees Beth being put into a medically-induced coma, with her family eventually taking the heartbreaking decision to switch off her life support. Filming in the immediate aftermath was tough, says Dog, but the weeks and months that followed were even more challenging.
“I barely remember the first six months after Beth passed away,” he admits. “The last episode, it was right after she passed, a couple weeks, right? So you’re grieving and you’re freaked out and you don’t know what’s happening… but after that, when everything calms down, and people quit calling you, and flowers quit coming to the door and all of a sudden you’re alone… that’s when it hit me.
“You don’t want to have to go through it.”
Though he read up extensively on typical reactions to the death of a spouse – in an effort, he says, to avoid falling into certain emotional traps – Dog admits that no amount of preparation helped with the reality of losing his wife.
“All of us are human, so there are certain things that we go through,” he says. “I read ’em all and I tried to tell myself, ‘You’re not gonna do that’ – like, for instance, you blame the person that passed away, you blame them for dying.
“I was like, ‘I’m not gonna do that…’ and then one day I looked at Heaven and said, ‘What the hell, why did you leave me here?’ and I was swearing at her, and then I’m like, ‘Oh God, I can’t do this’ – so no matter what you do or who you are, whatever kind of superstar you think you are, you’re going to feel certain things.”
Though he had his doubts early on, Dog insists that Dog’s Most Wanted now serves as a fitting tribute to his late wife, who once vowed: “If I’m gonna die, I’m gonna die in my boots.”
“The numbers here in the United States for that show set records at [US broadcaster] WGN – I looked up to Heaven and said, ‘Beth, easy on me! That’s enough, you’re blowing me away!’ – she blew my record out the door, so I think it is an amazing tribute to her.”
Dog’s Most Wanted begins tonight at 9pm on BLAZE (Freeview 63, Sky 164, Freesat 162, and Virgin Media 216) – check out what else is on with our TV Guide