Come to watch Bobby Bones suffer, stay for the uplifting stories. That’s the basic premise of “Breaking Bobby Bones,” a 16-episode series that premieres Monday, May 31 (10pm ET, National Geographic). “The hook is, ‘Is he gonna die or hurt himself?’” Premiere Networks’ syndicated host tells Country Insider. However, Bones adds, “If you watch this show and you’re not inspired, I didn’t do my job.”
That may be so, but there’s tremendous entertainment value in watching a successful person put through the wringer on a regular basis. “The show was a grind,” the Premiere Networks-syndicated host says.
Over the next eight weeks — two new episodes debut each week — viewers will see Bones attempt, and often fail, to learn and execute a new skill or ability, as he encounters people with extraordinary jobs and hobbies. In one episode, he partners with a Hollywood stunt performer. In another, he joins a blind former U.S. Navy Petty Officer and kayaks Idaho’s Payette River blindfolded.
“The premise, when I came up with the show idea, wasn’t for me to go out and do crazy stuff,” Bones says. “It was to find the underdogs of American that aren’t really rewarded for the work they’re doing or the adversity they’ve pushed through.”
Some of the challenges sounded exciting upfront, like para ice hockey, where players propel themselves around the ice using their arms.
“It looks like fun until you have to dig into the ice with your arms for every movement forward,” says Bones, who trained for two days before playing a full game against Paralympic-level athletes. “I got the crap beat out of me because they weren’t going to let me score,” Bones says. “They have pride, too. These are ex-military guys. It was extremely rewarding, but, physically, it was one of the harder episodes.”
One of Monday’s episodes might have been the most frightening, given Bones’ fear of heights. In it, he joins a rope access technician in cleaning the underside of the Grand Canyon Skywalk, a 70-foot glass walkway situated 4,000 feet above the Colorado River.
“It was so bad I almost cried,” Bones says, “not because I was sad or happy but because my body was just, like, ‘I don’t know if I can do this.’”
Bones’ body did betray him in another episode. “I was in Northern California, doing, like, forest-fire tree maintenance,” he says. “You have to climb to the top of the tree with just two spikes in your shoes and a rope. You have to dig one foot in, one foot in, lift the rope, one foot in, one foot in, lift the rope. I had messed up my hip, learning how to do it, but I kept pushing through. When I got up there, I couldn't move. They had to run a medic out and stop the show.”
The goal, Bones says, was to force himself to push through uncomfortable situations. “I'm not someone who is just filled with talent,” he says. “All I have is tenacity. I’ve learned that if you keep screwing up, you're going to learn each time. Eventually you’ll accomplish those goals. For me, it's been, one, survival — I’ve got to pay the bills. Then, two, is to share with people, ‘Hey, why are you scared? Are you scared of failing? If so, don't be scared of that; watch me fail all the time. Go and pursue whatever it is. Even if you do fail, it's okay.’”
It’s not that Bones seeks out high-risk adventures. But he’s found that he’s good at failure and managing the discomfort that accompanies it.
“It's like waking up in the morning for my radio show,” he says. “I get up at 3:30 every morning. I hate it every single morning. However, I'm used to hating it. It is what it is, I just know when I wake up, it's going to suck. I'm not surprised by it anymore. I get through it every day and go do my show, and I love it.
Bones doesn’t think any of the challenges on “Breaking Bobby Bones” necessarily made him a better person, but “I do think you can get lost to sitting in a room, talking with your friends,” he says. “Going out and experiencing life and hearing stories of people all over the states and their struggles and triumphs, that makes me a better person in general, then that affects the show.”
If there’s one thing that could break Bobby Bones, though, it might be time management, as the immovable object of Bones’ scheduling calendar prepares to encounter the irresistible force of fiancée Caitlin Parker.
“She's like, 'You just have to stop scheduling stuff five minutes apart, and you have to put a little balance in your life,’” he says. “Because I'm being taught — aka forced — I'm adding downtime now and I'm having weekends off, starting this weekend. Of all the things that could break me, learning how to have balance might break me in the end.”