In case anyone was wondering, the trailer of Bobby Bones’ new National Geographic show, Breaking Bobby Bones, makes one thing clear: Hanging out over the ledge of the Grand Canyon, suspended by ropes 4,000 feet in the air, is not his idea of a good time.
“Terrifying. That’s a good word for it. That’s the word for it,” Bones told Country Now recently, summing up his new show in one word.
Bones, one of the most successful radio personalities in country music, is a busy guy. He’s the titular host of the nationally-syndicated morning radio show, The Bobby Bones Show, plus a full-time mentor on ABC’s American Idol and the author of two New York Times best-selling memoirs. He has his own podcast, and he won Season 27 of Dancing With the Stars. He also has a wedding to plan, having gotten engaged to Caitlin Parker, who he met on the set of Dancing With the Stars in late 2019, last October.
He has already climbed to the top of his industry, but his new show finds Bones starting back down at the bottom of a series of new career paths — a different job for each of the show’s 16 episodes, each more taxing and terrifying than the last. It’s easy to wonder why he’d want to do it at all. Making the show involved facing a lot of discomfort, and even a big phobia or two, like his fear of heights.
“Well, I’ll tell you, I didn’t [want to do it]. I didn’t wanna hang off the Grand Canyon. That’s the thing, right?” Bones says.
“In my mind, it was like, anybody can go out and act a fool, anybody can do dumb stuff that’s risky,” he continues. “And I do all of that, but my goal was to showcase the underdog, the American out there who is not really getting the credit that they deserve, people who have gone through a situation and don’t let their circumstances define them.”
The people that Bones met with over the course of the show came from personal backgrounds as far-flung and diverse as their geographic locations. All over the country, he and the showrunners sought out people with inspiring stories and unusual jobs, many of which were so niche that prior to filming, Bones had no idea they existed.
In Seattle, for example, he met a commercial diver who works in underwater construction, after a difficult upbringing that involved losing her mom young and sleeping in her truck as she finished school. In Montana, he met a sheep rancher named Evan who was fighting to keep his family’s business alive. After hearing their stories, Bones spent a few days learning to do their jobs, whether that meant suiting up in scuba gear or staying up all night to protect a herd of sheep from predators.
“I had to go out and protect sheep, through the night,” Bones recalls of his time in Montana. “So here I am with a high powered rifle, making sure bears and coyotes don’t eat the sheep that we’re trying to protect.”
In every episode, Bones is a complete novice, and he embraces that role. Viewers will get plenty of chances to see him be scared, uncomfortable and confused, he says, but that’s not the point of Breaking Bobby Bones. More importantly, his show highlights the resilience of the human spirit, and showcases people who have made something incredible out of the challenges handed to them.
For example, in one episode in Southern California, Bones learned the basics of sled hockey with help from Ralph DeQuebec, a member of the U.S.’ gold-winning paralympic sled hockey team. DeQuebec lost both his legs while serving in the military in Afghanistan, and when he came back to the states, he began to learn hockey via a video game. Eventually, he picked up sled hockey — a sport in which athletes use their arms — and rose through the ranks, ultimately becoming a gold medalist. Bones says that training with DeQuebec, and ultimately playing a game against some of the other members of the team, was one of the more enjoyable of the jobs he tried for the show, even though it was still pretty painful.
“They beat me up pretty badly. It was tough. They did not take it easy on me,” he admits with a laugh. “I wouldn’t do it again, but I don’t look back on those three or four days and go, ‘Ooh, that was miserable.’ That was really hard, but it was also rewarding.”
Bones hopes that, in addition to getting a good laugh at his expense, viewers walk away from the show inspired. “At some point in our lives, crap’s gonna happen. You, me, everyone on the show…And we can decide to lay down and give up, or we can get up and fight for what we stand for and what we’re about. I think this show is a good example of people who’ve chosen to do this second,” he explains.
“You’re gonna laugh because I’m stupid. But you’re also gonna feel, and you’re gonna relate,” he continues. “Hopefully, at the end, you’re gonna get a little bit emotional because of what we’re able to do.”
Breaking Bobby Bones premieres on Monday, May 31 at 10/9c on National Geographic. The following weeks, the show will air Sundays at 10/9c with two new episodes premiering each week.