“Just two good old boys, never meanin’ no harm… Beats all you never saw, been in trouble with the law since the day they was born…”
Everybody loves a car chase. From Bullitt to The French Connection to Smokey and the Bandit, speedy vehicles have thrilled viewers on the big screen for years. CHiPs proved the same thrills were possible on the small screen, so it was only a natural progression to continue the concept of the chase-driven show.
Unlike CHiPs, The Dukes Of Hazzard took the side of the “outlaws” as it followed the adventures of the Duke cousins, Bo and Luke. The boys were reformed former moonshiners whose career ended when they were caught making a moonshine run for their Uncle Jesse. Jesse made a deal with the law to keep the boys out of prison, involving a promise from the boys never to run moonshine again, not to cross the state line without permission, and not to use any firearms.
However, none of this could keep the Duke boys down. To get around the firearms ban, the two were strictly bowmen, though their arrows often had a bit of TNT-fueled kick. They also built a car with the help of their buddy, Cooter Davenport. They took out a loan to finance the venture while their other cousin, Daisy (who wears short shorts? she wears short shorts!), worked at the Boar’s Nest to pay off the loan (“Free drinks on the house!”). This hangout was owned by Boss Hogg, the local politico who ran Hazzard County and the major nemesis of the Duke clan.
The extremely corrupt Hogg was always involved in dirty business, and it was up to the Duke boys and their new car, The General Lee (a souped-up 69 Dodge Charger), to foil his schemes. The fact that the General Lee’s doors were welded shut wasn’t a problem – it just forced Bo and Luke to slide across the hood and dive through the windows to look extra cool. Meanwhile, Hogg tried to keep the boys at bay by sending his men, Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane and Deputy Enos Strate, after them.
The result was a lot of fast-paced car chase action as Bo and Duke, two modern day Robin Hoods, used the General Lee to outwit the lawmen and foil Boss Hogg’s schemes. Hogg would retaliate by plotting to steal the Duke farm or trick the boys into missing their payments on the loan for the General Lee, but his schemes were consistently foiled by the ever-vigilant Duke clan. The adventure was punctuated by asides from an off-screen narrator, country music star Waylon Jennings, who also provided the show’s memorable theme song.
The show, created by Gy Waldron and loosely based upon his 1974 feature film Moon Runners, was tested out as a mid-season replacement series in 1979. Initially wedged between The Incredible Hulk and Dallas on Friday nights, the show was an overnight success and formed the final link in an indestructible prime time lineup for CBS. The show’s combination of high octane action and slapstick humor attracted action buffs and children alike.
The show’s popularity was great enough to inspire two spin-offs. The first was Enos, which had the good-hearted deputy moving to Los Angeles after being invited to join their Metro Police force. After one season (80-81), the show ended, and Enos returned to The Dukes of Hazzard. The other spin-off from the show was The Dukes, a Saturday morning cartoon that ran from February to November of 1983. The Dukes of Hazzard was also a marketing sensation, prompting huge sales of Dukes merchandise (especially toy and model cars).
The success of the merchandise became a bone of contention for stars Tom Wopat (Luke) and John Schneider (Bo). In the spring of 1982, the two walked away from the show after getting in a dispute with the producers over their salaries and their share of the merchandising profits. The producers wrote Bo and Luke out of the story and replaced them with a new set of cousins, Coy and Vance, who returned home to help Uncle Jesse run the farm while Bo and Duke supposedly left to try their hands at NASCAR racing.
This move did not sit well with the fans, and the ratings dipped. The producers worked out a deal with Wopat and Schneider, who were having trouble finding non-Duke success, and Bo and Luke returned to the show in February of 1983. Coy and Vance hung out with the boys for their return episode, but were gone immediately after that. The show continued to run until August of 1985, when it was canceled after 143 episodes.
The show is still reeling in viewers in syndication, and some various TV movies brought the clan back for new feudin’, schemin’ and car chasin’. Yeeeeeeee-hah!