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
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.
This three-disc set includes all 13 initial episodes of Dukes from 1979, a period fans fondly recall because some of the programs were shot on location in Covington, Georgia, rather than a Burbank backlot. Also noteworthy is that a couple of key characters, particularly Hazzard County's corrupt lawman, Roscoe P. Coltrane (James Best), hadn't gelled yet into permanent hayseed stereotypes and were arguably more interesting at the beginning. 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 in Dukes. 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.
Yes, it's a show about rubes, car stunts, and a legacy of moonshine, but there's something comforting about it, in a tongue-in-cheek way. --Tom Keogh