1 9 7 9 – 1 9 8 5 (USA)
145 x 60 minute episodes
Rural comedies such as The Beverly Hillbillies had been a staple of the CBS line-up in the 60s. The Dukes of Hazzard signalled a revival of the “good ol’ boy” comedy.
Luke (Tom Wopat) and Bo (John Schneider) Duke were cousins and buddies in Hazzard County, located “east of the Mississippi and south of the Ohio”. No state was ever mentioned, but there is a Hazard, Kentucky – a city, not a county.
Their nemesis was Boss Hogg (Sorrell Booke), a fat, blustery and thoroughly corrupt local politician who owned most of the town, always seen in a white flannel suit. The Dukes easily managed to avoid capture by dim-witted Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane (James Best), Hogg’s brother-in-law, while acting as Robin Hoods of the county.
The Dukes sped up and down the county in their souped-up V8 1969 Dodge Charger, the General Lee, occasionally pausing for some advice from their wise old Uncle Jesse (Denver Pyle), who once ran moonshine with Boss Hogg.
Moonshine, wild car chases and crashes, and lots of scantily clad young women, populated the series, including the Dukes’ gorgeous cousin Daisy, played by Catherine Bach, who reputedly had her legs insured for $US 20 million.
Daisy worked as a waitress at the Boar’s Nest (a bar owned by Boss) and also worked part-time as a reporter for the Hazzard County Gazette.
Country star Waylon Jennings served as off-screen narrator to the accompaniment of fast-paced banjo music.
The considerable success of The Dukes of Hazzard spawned several imitations, including Lobo, Harper Valley PTA and a spin-off from Dukes itself, Enos starred Sheriff Coltrane’s grinning Deputy Enos (Sonny Shroyer). When Enos departed the series he was replaced by a new Deputy, Cletus (Rick Hurst).
In the spring of 1982, Tom Wopat and John Schneider walked out on The Dukes of Hazzard in a contract dispute over their salaries and share of the merchandising royalties from Dukes toys, games, T-shirts and other merchandise that were selling like hotcakes.
Warner Brothers held a nationwide hunt to find two new Dukes to fill their shoes in the series and, after screening 2,230 applicants, settled on Byron Cherry and Christopher Mayer.
It was explained that Luke and Bo had left Hazzard to try their luck on the NASCAR racing circuit and that their cousins, Coy and Vance, had returned home after a six-year absence to help Uncle Jesse run the farm. Deputy Enos Strate was back, but it just wasn’t the same.
The show’s ratings and Wopat’s and Schneider’s careers all suffered due to the feud, so a settlement was finally reached, and Luke and Bo returned to Hazzard County the following February. That fall, Coy and Vance were gone.
The series also took its toll on real automobiles due to all those chases and crashes. Although on-screen, the General Lee never seemed to have a scratch, almost 300 look-alikes were wrecked during filming.
Identically painted Dodge Chargers were kept on hand during the production of each episode, so filming was never held up.
“First Unit” cars were driven only by the show’s stars, while “Second Unit” cars – driven by stunt drivers for the action scenes – looked alike on screen but were very different under the skin. These cars were equipped with full roll cages and boxes of lead weights in the boot (trunk) as ballast to keep the cars level in the air when performing stunt jumps.
Once a car had performed a jump, it was finished. The shock of the impact on landing destroyed the structural integrity of the car, even if there was no visible damage. And if the shot didn’t turn out right the first time, the crew would film it again with another car.
The theme song from the series, sung by Waylon Jennings, was on the charts in 1980.
An animated version of the show, titled The Dukes, aired on CBS’s Saturday morning line-up from February to November 1983, with the series’ regulars providing the voices.
A 2007 prequel, The Dukes of Hazzard: The Beginning, aired on ABC and starred Willie Nelson as Uncle Jesse.
Uncle Jesse Duke
Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane
Jefferson Davis “Boss” Hogg
Deputy Enos Strate
Ms Emma Tisdale
Don Pedro Colley