Best in Show

June, 2006

Athough their onscreen personas can be larger than life, bounty hunter Duane “Dog” Chapman and his wife, Beth, are the nicest people, in a business with the tightest of margins, according to Editor-at-Large David K. Choo, who wrote this month’s cover story about the Chapmans and their bail bond business. For those of you not A&E viewers, Dog and his business, Da Kine Bail Bonds, are the subjects of “Dog the Bounty Hunter,” the highest rated reality show on that cable network.

Dog will not confirm receiving $2.6 million for the show’s third season and has just inked a deal for a fourth, however the net benefit to Hawaii is somewhat of a question mark. Dave’s story outlines how tough it is for bail-bond operations to make a buck, but there’s also the business of the reality show that chronicles Dog’s bail bond business and bounty hunts. Hawaii film commissioner Donne Dawson says, overall, response to the show has been positive. “It’s got a loyal viewership and it’s become this runaway hit for A&E. It’s great to see how it’s developed over the years.”

But when it comes to talking numbers, Dawson demures. She will only discuss the value of film production in Hawaii in the aggregate. “It’s a small part of a very big picture,” she says. “We’re $100 million a year in direct spend and they are a very small part of that.”

She has also heard some critical comments about the reality show’s focus on the seedier side of Hawaii. Dawson says, “The flipside of it for us is that there’s a lot of fans of the show out there. There’s a lot of fans of “Lost” out there. There’s a lot of fans of “Hawaii 5-O” out there and it is of interest to these visitors to come to places where the shows that they love are made. That’s kind of the silver lining. People want to go where their favorite TV shows and films are made and that’s a good thing for us.” Sounds like the Dog factor is adding to Hawaii’s bottom line.A reality show is much cheaper to produce than a full-scale theatrical production. Dawson says, “It’s not one of our larger more labor intensive productions. Obviously, you can’t compare them to a show like “Lost.” [“Dog” is] much more low-impact because of the nature of how reality television is shot. In terms of the type of budget that they’re on, it would be several hundred thousand versus several million.”


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Kelli Abe Trifonovitch