I have fond memories of the Dukes of Hazard. Of all of the mainstream US 80’s shows it’s the one that took itself the least seriously.
Set in the deep south of the USA it was about bootleggers if memory serves. Yep, a family TV show about guys illegally running moonshine across state lines. They had been caught though and as a result, our two main protagonists, brothers Bo and Luke Duke aka ‘The Duke Boy’s (Tom Wopat and John Schneider) were offered a plea bargain to prevent them going to jail. The terms were that their uncle Jesse would have to stop brewing the illegal hooch he had been making for them to transport and that they were not allowed to leave the boundaries of Hazzard County. However, this doesn’t stop them getting into all kind of shenanigans as they protect their farm and routinely foil the corrupt schemes of local commissioner Boss Hogg and his partner in organised crime, the local Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane.
Most of the action centred around their lightning fast stock car, The General Lee which was a 1969 Dodge Charger that didn’t appear to have any doors much to my eternal confusion as a small child. In actual fact, it turns out it did have doors but the boys just neglected or point blank refused to use them instead preferring to swing or jump in head or feet first through the windows which were always left open. Growing up in Glasgow leaving your car windows down when you weren’t actually sitting in it was pretty much an alien concept as it would likely result in your car not being there when you came back to it.
The car was pretty distinctive looking in that it was bright orange with a large Confederate flag on the roof. Imagine a TV show nowadays with a vehicle adorned in such a manner, with that name which had a horn that played ‘Dixie’. It just wouldn’t happen. Anyway, the boys use the General Lee to fire around the county at rapid speed and even on occasion over state lines and prove to be an almost permanent pain in the ass to the aforementioned antagonists Sheriff Coltrane and brilliantly titled Boss Hogg. The vehicle really was the star of the show as it was able to propel itself through the air at great speeds and make unfeasibly long jumps that pretty much defied physics whilst never losing any suspension or getting as much as a scratch on a pretty regular basis. It’s iconic success no doubt led to the push for other vehicle inspired action shows throughout the following decade such as Knight Rider, Street Hawk etc.
There were a few other supporting characters including local mechanic Cooter Davenport who often helped the boys out and also has no love for Boss Hogg as well as local deputies Enos Strate and Cletus Hogg who despite being lawmen are generally well meaning and sympathetic towards the Dukes even though they have to chase them a lot.
But to be honest, the only other supporting character any young male or for that matter, a man of any age cared about was the boys often scantily clad cousin Daisy Duke played by the delectable Catherine Bach. It’s pretty safe to say that Daisy Duke was my first TV crush. I think my first movie crush was Courtney Cox and Chelsea Field in ‘Masters of the Universe’ but I’ll get back to that elsewhere.
I mean even as a 5-year-old Daisy was friggin’ awesome. Her attire usually composed of no more than a pair of denim hotpants, heels and a tight fitting lumberjack shirt tied up at the waist and with a helluva lot of cleavage on show. She also wasn’t adverse to dawning a bikini on occasion either even though there were no beaches in Hazzard County. With her sandy brown hair, washboard stomach and big blue eyes it was pretty difficult not to be pretty besotted with her and by all accounts millions were. I can remember my dad coming into the living room and demanding ‘get that rubbish off’ when I was watching the show before Daisy Duke came on screen and then suddenly his demeanor would change and he’d say ‘well maybe just for a few mins’ before settling down on the couch to watch the rest of the episode. I don’t think it was the plot curves that were transfixing him.
Deputy Ebos Strate was in love with Daisy as was the rest of the country at the time but he never really did much about it except stumble over his words in her presence and generally make a fool of himself much to the delight of the baying male viewership.
The boy’s uncle Jesse was played by the lovable Denver Pyle who wore dungarees, an old red cap and had a big white beard. Basically, he looked like Santa Claus. He was a father figure to the various members of the Duke clan and became a beloved TV character in the process.
Most of the hilarity came from the chief antagonist Boss Hogg or Jefferson Davis “J.D.” Hogg, to give him his full name. He was played by Sorrell Booke. Short, bald, rotund and always wearing an oversized white Stetson hat to complement his all bright white suit he was it seemed forever up to no good, hatching new and highly illegal money making schemes every week and he rarely had a cigar or some form of junk food out of his mouth. Boss Hogg really was gloriously ridiculous looking. So much so it appears that his whole attire was ripped off by Archangel in ‘Air Wolf’ some years later.
His chief acolyte Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane (James Best) was clearly modelled on Sherriff J.W. Pepper from the Bond movies as well as Buford T. Justice from ‘Smokey and the Bandit’ film series, which had been released only a few years before The Dukes of Hazzard commenced, in that he was permanently frustrated in his efforts and would walk away defeated but relatively unscathed from various high-speed car chases which usually ended up with his vehicle being written off. Rosco’s companion was the ever present droopy eyed, female basset hound Flash who would often ride up front with him. Don’t worry though she never got hurt in any of the elaborate car chases and inevitable crashes either.
The show was narrated by country and western singer Waylon Jennings who’s comforting southern twang would not only introduce the show but also offer commentary, analysis, and comical observations during it. He also sang the theme song “Good Ol Boys”.
It was all pretty innocent, inoffensive and good natured stuff with a big heart. Despite the car being named after a Confederate general as well as the flag of the Confederacy adorning its roof, there were no racist undertones. Hazzard County was mostly white but the occasional black character did come through and their skin colour never seemed to bother anyone. Indeed the neighbouring county sheriff Edward Thomas “Big Ed” Little was African-American and he was the only one who ever seemed to come close to catching the Duke Boys on one of their many cross county lines moonshine runs. He was far more capable and intimidating than the incompetent Sheriff Rosco.
In recent years the golfer Bubba Watson purchased the General Lee at auction. Who’d have guessed he was a southerner and fan of the show with a name like that? Someone might actually mention to him that there is little to no chance that it’s actually the original car he bought. I mean the number of stunts they did with the thing they must have been going through 69′ orange Dodge Chargers like coins at a peep show.
He promised to paint over the Confederate flag on the roof with the stars and stripes. Whether he actually has or not who knows. I’ve also read that they are removing the flag from the toy line. Now I’m from Scotland in the UK so the flag holds little to no relevance to the world I live in though I am aware of its historically racist connotations however that being said I’m not sure what that sort of revisionism achieves. I mean copies of the show will always still be out there. Is anyone really offended by the car from The Dukes of Hazzard? It was a farcical show that showed southerners in a pretty absurd light. Indeed pretty much every cliche I have about the deep south in America is probably formulated by that show to some extent. That being they are all bootleggers who love NASCAR, drink moonshine, drive like maniacs and routinely try to evade the law. Oh and that all local officialdom is completely corrupt. That aside I didn’t realise there was still a market for Dukes of Hazzard toy merchandise. If you remove the flag due to its confederate civil war association then you also have to remove the name as well (General Lee was a Confederate general after all) along with the ‘Dixie’ theme made by the car horn. In doing all that it literally ceases to be the General Lee and is just an orange stock car. Perhaps they’ll rebrand it as ‘The same model car as the one from the Dukes of Hazzard’.
The show ran for 7 seasons from 1979 until 1985 though was rerun for years after. Any kid from the 80’s will remember it with a smile. It was remade in the mid-2000’s as a Hollywood movie starring Seann William Scott, Johnny Knoxville, and Jessica Simpson. Their careers have since all pretty much gone the way of the original show ie: defunct. I haven’t seen it so can’t tell you if it’s good or bad. I’m led to believe it’s neither.
Reruns of it are pretty much as rare as hen’s teeth these days. I guess that’s where YouTube really comes into its own. So if you do want to take a trip down memory lane I’d recommend you go there right now and type in………The Dukes of Hazzard!
The exclamation mark is optional.