Forty-three years ago today, the television show The Dukes of Hazzard premiered. It was one of those shows that had recognizable celebrity guests every week.
Genre: Action/Adventure, Family, Comedy-drama
Created by: Gy Waldron and Jerry Rushing
Starring: Tom Wopat, John Schneider, Catherine Bach, Denver Pyle, Rick Hurst, Sonny Shroyer, Ben Jones, James Best, Sorrell Booke, Waylon Jennings, Byron Cherry, Christopher Mayer
Narrated by: Waylon Jennings
Opening theme: “Good Ol’ Boys” performed by Waylon Jennings
No. of seasons: 7
No. of episodes: 147 (list of episodes)
Running time: 45–49 minutes
Production companies: Paul R. Picard Productions and Piggy Productions, Inc. (season 1), Lou Step Productions (seasons 2–7), Warner Bros. Television
Distributor: Warner Bros. Television Distribution
Original network: CBS
Original release: January 26, 1979 – February 8, 1985
The Dukes of Hazzard follows the adventures of “the Duke boys”, cousins Bo Duke (John Schneider) and Luke Duke (Tom Wopat) (including Coy and Vance Duke for most of season 5), who live on a family farm in fictional Hazzard County, Georgia, (the exact location of Hazzard county was never specified, though Atlanta was mentioned several times as the nearest big city) with their attractive female cousin Daisy (Catherine Bach) and their wise old Uncle Jesse (Denver Pyle). The Duke boys race around in their customized 1969 Dodge Charger stock car, dubbed (The) General Lee, evading crooked and corrupt county commissioner Boss Hogg (Sorrell Booke) and his bumbling and corrupt Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane (James Best) along with his deputy(s), and always managing to get caught in the middle of the various escapades and incidents that often occur in the area. Bo and Luke had previously been sentenced to probation for illegal transportation of moonshine; their Uncle Jesse made a plea bargain with the U.S. Government to refrain from distilling moonshine in exchange for Bo and Luke’s freedom. As a result, Bo and Luke are on five years’ probation and not allowed to carry firearms—instead, they often use compound bows, sometimes with arrows tipped with dynamite—or to leave Hazzard County unless they get probation permission from their probation officer, Boss Hogg, although the exact details of their probation terms vary from episode to episode. Sometimes it is implied that they would be jailed for merely crossing the county line; on other occasions, it is shown that they may leave Hazzard, as long as they are back within a certain time limit. Several other technicalities of their probation also came into play at various times.
Corrupt county commissioner Jefferson Davis (J. D.) “Boss” Hogg, who either runs, or has his fingers in, virtually everything in Hazzard County, is forever angry with the Dukes, especially Bo and Luke, for always foiling his crooked schemes. He is always looking for ways to get them out of the picture so that his plots have a chance of succeeding. Many episodes revolve around Hogg trying to engage in an illegal scheme, sometimes with aid of hired criminal help. Some of these are get-rich-quick schemes, though many others affect the financial security of the Duke farm, which Hogg has long wanted to acquire for various reasons. Other times, Hogg hires criminals from out of town to do his dirty work for him, and often tries to frame Bo and Luke for various crimes as part of these plots. Bo and Luke always seem to stumble over Hogg’s latest scheme, sometimes by curiosity, and often by sheer luck, and put it out of business. Despite the Dukes often coming to his rescue (see below), Hogg forever seems to have an irrational dislike of the clan, particularly Bo and Luke, often accusing them of spying on him, robbing or planning to rob him, and other supposedly nefarious actions, as he believes that they are generally out to get him.
The role of Boss Hogg was played by Sorrell Booke, who performed frequently on radio, stage, and film prior to his role in The Dukes of Hazzard. Boss Hogg is one of only two characters to appear in every episode of the TV series, the other being Uncle Jesse Duke.
The other main characters of the show include local mechanic Cooter Davenport (Ben Jones), who in early episodes was portrayed as a wild, unshaven rebel, often breaking or treading on the edge of the law, before settling down to become the Duke family’s best friend (he is often referred to as an “honorary Duke”) and owns the local garage; and Enos Strate (Sonny Shroyer), an honest but naive young deputy who, despite his friendship with the Dukes (and his crush on Daisy), is reluctantly forced to take part in Hogg and Rosco’s crooked schemes. In the third and fourth seasons, when Enos leaves for his own show, he is replaced by Deputy Cletus Hogg (Rick Hurst), Boss’s cousin, who is slightly more wily than Enos but still a somewhat reluctant player in Hogg’s plots.
Owing to their fundamentally good natures, the Dukes often wind up helping Boss Hogg out of trouble, albeit grudgingly. More than once Hogg is targeted by former associates who are either seeking revenge or have double crossed him after a scheme has unraveled in one way or another. Sheriff Coltrane also finds himself targeted in some instances. On such occasions, Bo and Luke usually have to rescue their adversaries as an inevitable precursor to defeating the bad guys; in other instances, the Dukes join forces with Hogg and Coltrane to tackle bigger threats to Hazzard or one of their respective parties. These instances became more frequent as the show progressed, and later seasons saw a number of stories where the Dukes and Hogg (and Coltrane) temporarily work together.