Dukes of Hazzard
By Tom Keogh
The Dukes of Hazzard was part of America's
redneck fetish in the mid-to-late 1970s, otherwise evident in popular
songs, movies, and television shows highlighting fast cars, truckers,
citizens' band radio, moonshine, irreverent hicks, and clueless lawmen.
Created by writer-producer Gy Waldron and inspired by his own 1975
bootlegging comedy, Moonrunners, Dukes milked seven seasons
of material from the tale of a Deep South family of reformed
whiskey-makers and their running feud with a greedy impresario and his
chief lackey, a buffoonish, venal sheriff. At the center of the action is
Sheriff Coltrane's nemeses, cousins Bo Duke (John Schneider) and Luke Duke
(Tom Wopat), a couple of wild boys buzzing through the backwoods in the
"General Lee," a souped-up Dodge Charger. Bo and Luke are good
at heart but have to behave themselves while on indefinite probation,
complicating but not halting their efforts to vex Roscoe and his patron,
diminutive bigwig Boss Hogg (Sorrell Booke). The enmity runs both ways:
Roscoe and Boss Hogg, with the aid of witless Deputy Enos Strate (Sonny
Shroyer), dream up ways of eliminating the Dukes--including their wise old
Uncle Jesse (Denver Pyle)--but their efforts always backfire.
While every episode is a variation on the previous one, predictability
is a virtue. The series pilot, "One Armed Bandits," finds Luke
and Bo, with help from their sexy cousin, Daisy (Catherine Bach),
diverting slot machines (smuggled into Hazzard County by Roscoe and Boss
Hogg) to sundry watering holes where they can raise money for Bo's
girlfriend's charity. In "Money to Burn," Boss Hogg tries to
frame Bo and Luke for robbing an armored truck, while in "Deputy
Dukes," the unarmed guys are forced by Roscoe to escort a deadly
prisoner from one town to another. The Dukes hit back in "Daisy's
Song," investigating a scam that took Daisy for $50 and implicates,
of course, Boss Hogg and Roscoe.
By season 2, the show, originally shot on location in Covington,
Georgia, was permanently produced on a backlot in Burbank, California.
While a couple of cast members (Ben Jones, who plays mechanic Cooter
Davenport, and James Best, who portrays Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane) briefly
boycotted the series in its second year, the actors relaxed into their now
thoroughly cartoonish characters. Highlights include a funny fan favorite
called "The Ghost of General Lee" (also co-star Schneider's
favorite episode), in which Bo and Luke are assumed to have drowned when
their stolen car ends up at the bottom of a pond. NASCAR legend Cale
Yarborough makes an appealing guest in a story about the development of a
secret turbo charger and Hogg's effort to steal it, while Loretta Lynn
turns up as herself in a damsel-in-distress tale, featuring the country
superstar as a kidnapped hostage. "Witness for the Persecution"
introduces a recurring theme on Dukes: Occasions in which the vile Hogg
must be protected from his enemies by hiding out with (gasp) the Dukes.
The best of the season, however, may be "Days of Shine and
Roses," in which Hogg and Uncle Jesse, after watching a film of their
old moonshine-delivery exploits with the Ridge Runners Association, get
into an argument about who was best and decide to resolve the question
with a grudge race.
The predictability of the show in its third year by no means makes the
series anything less than shameless, tongue-in-cheek fun. Booke's
cartoonish villain remains an outlandish self-caricature, chortling over
every (doomed) opportunity to nail the Dukes and/or take Uncle Jesse's
farm through a crooked boxing match ("And in This Corner, Luke
Duke"), a bank robbery set up (by Hogg) to appear that Bo and Luke
pulled off the crime during the wedding of Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane
(James Best, in "Mrs. Rosco P. Coltrane"), and even by
pretending to be amnesia victim Bo's father ("My Son, Bo Hogg").
Fourth-season highlights include "Mrs. Daisy Hogg," with
guest star Jonathan Frakes--destined to play Commander William T. Riker on
Star Trek: The Next Generation--as a counterfeiter who falls for, and thus
endangers, poor Daisy. "Double Dukes" finds Boss Hogg hiring two
thugs to disguise themselves as Bo and Luke, but the real fun with this
episode is a recent commentary track with Wopat, Schneider, and Bach
kidding around and reminiscing like naughty siblings. "Diamonds in
the Rough" concerns out-of-town gangsters searching for stolen
diamonds stuffed in a Bugs Bunny toy that made its way from the Dukes'
hands to Boss Hogg's Cadillac to Roscoe's hound. "Ten Million Dollar
Sheriff" is a two-parter in which Roscoe inherits a load of money,
and--for a time--becomes a kingpin even more dangerous than Boss Hogg.
Comedian Jeff Altman makes a comeback as master-of-disguise villain Hughie
Hogg, who implements grand plans to eliminate the Dukes and
salt-of-the-earth tow truck driver Cooter Davenport (Ben Jones). Sprinkled
throughout the season are musical performances by Buck Owens, Mickey
Gilley, and other country artists.
All four seasons of The Dukes of Hazzard are now on DVD! Season
3, and Season
4. You can also buy all
four seasons in a 20 disc set!