||THE DUKES OF HAZZARD
Action packed TV series with high speed chases and slapstick adventure.
145 Episodes of 60 minutes duration. CBS. 1979-85.
Inspired by the 1975 film “Moonrunners” by Guy Waldron (who also created the series), The Dukes of Hazzard was a lighthearted saga about a pair of “good ol’ boy” cousins who managed each week to thwart the schemes of commissioner Jefferson Davis “Boss” Hogg and the hapless sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane in the fictional rural county of Hazzard, Georgia.
Tom Wopat played Lucas K. “Luke” Duke; John Schneider was his cousin Beauregard “Bo” Duke, who were once sentenced to probation for delivering moonshine liquor. But thanks to their Uncle Jessie (Denver Pyle), Bo and Luke ended their moonshine operation in exchange for freedom. But they weren’t allowed to leave Hazzard County. Meanwhile, “Boss” Hogg (Sorrell Booke) constantly looked for ways to get rid of the Duke cousins, and got little help from Sheriff Coltrane (James Best) or his equally bumbling deputy Enos Strate (Sonny Shroyer). Helping the Duke boys was their younger and beautiful cousin Daisy (Catherine Bach), whose high-cut jean shorts became known to fans as “Daisy Dukes.” Every episode had Bo and Luke in their customized 1969 Dodge Charger known as "General Lee" (several of them were kept on hand for the series), at a time when Dodge’s parent company Chrysler was asking for government loans to stay afloat.
Narrating all the action in each episode was legendary country music singer Waylon Jennings, who also performed the show’s title song, “Good Ol’ Boys;” it became a hit on both the country and pop music charts. A feature that began in the second season was the “celebrity speed trap” where a country music star was caught going too fast in the county and had to perform a concert to get the violation off his or her record. Among the “victims” of the speed trap were Buck Owens, Tammy Wynette, the Oak Ridge Boys and Mel Tillis.
All this down home fun helped The Dukes of Hazzard become an instant hit when it landed on CBS’ mid-season schedule in January 1979. It landed in the top ten (along with the series that followed, Dallas), giving CBS a strong Friday night lineup that allowed the network to retake the number one crown it lost to ABC in 1976.
In 1982, Tom Wopat and John Schneider essentially walked off The Dukes of Hazzard due to a dispute over pay and royalties from “Dukes” merchandise. Producers quickly moved to replace Wopat and Schneider with new characters–Byron Cherry and Christopher Mayer as cousins Coy and Vance Duke. (Luke and Bo were said to have left Hazzard County for a racing career.) But viewers weren’t happy with the new stars, and the show’s ratings immediately tumbled. After 17 episodes, Cherry and Mayer were gone, and Wopat and Schneider–having settled their salary dispute–returned as if nothing happened. But The Dukes of Hazzard never regained the audience it lost, and quietly left the airwaves in early 1985.
There was a short-lived spinoff (Enos) and a Saturday morning cartoon version (The Dukes), along with a pair of made-for-TV reunion films, subtitled Reunion (1997) and Hazzard In Hollywood! (2000). A feature film version of “Dukes” was released in 2005; despite negative reviews, it did well at the box office. Not so a prequel TV film called The Dukes of Hazzard: The Beginning. Still, the Duke cousins provided fine escapist entertainment in the best American tradition–with a Southern touch and a sense of humor.
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