Warner Bros. // 1980 // 1150 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Paul Corupe (Retired) // March 23rd, 2005
Looks like them Duke boys got themselves into trouble again!
The Dukes of Hazzard may not have been the most original series on TV, but it was one of the most entertaining. Adapting the unadulterated vehicular mayhem of films like Smokey and the Bandit, Moonrunners, and even Ron Howard's early masterstroke Eat My Dust to a weekly format, the show was a phenomenally popular mix of hillbilly comedy and action-filled mystery, all topped off with a bevy of leggy girls and even better looking cars. Who wouldn't love the chance to slip into the passenger seat of the General Lee and grab the CB to join anti-heroes Bo and Luke in their struggle against the cartoonish Sheriff Roscoe and his supervisor, the corpulent Boss Hogg. That's a 10-4, little buddy!
Somewhere deep in the heart of Georgia, country cuzzins Luke (Tom Wopat, Story, Songs and Stars) and Bo Duke (John Schneider, Speed Zone!) live on a farm with their Uncle, an ex-moonshiner named Jesse (Denver Pyle, The Great Race). On probation for rumrunning themselves, Bo and Luke have decided to give up life on the wrong side of the still under Uncle Jesse's watchful eye. For all their efforts, though, those Duke Boys always seem to find themselves in a mess of hardship as they tear around town in their pride and joy, an orange 1969 Dodge Charger nicknamed "The General Lee." Hazzard's "Supervisory Administrator" and leading industrialist, J.D. "Boss" Hogg (Sorrell Booke, Freaky Friday) holds a grudge against Jesse and his kin that stretches all the way back to the days when they use to run shine against each other, and Hogg keeps the Dukes on a short leash through the local police department, run by Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane (James Best, Rolling Thunder) and Deputy Enos Strate (Sonny Shroyer, Forrest Gump). As the cousins inadvertently find themselves in trouble each week and threatened with jail, they rely on cousin Daisy Duke (Catherine Bach, Cannonball Run II) and Hazzard mechanic Cooter Davenport (Ben Jones, Moonrunners) -- as well as the real star of the show, the General -- to help them outfox the Smokeys and bring the true lawbreakers to justice.
Or, to put it more succinctly, every episode of The Dukes of Hazzard can be summed up in the immortal words of Boss Hogg: "Rosco, get them Duke boys!"
After a successful first year run, The Dukes of Hazzard really started to find its niche, and was well on its way towards becoming the phenomenon it is today. The 23-episode second season, collected here on four double-sided DVDs as The Dukes of Hazzard: The Complete Second Season, introduced many of the show's best known elements and saw the series settling into the distinct comedy-action mold that it would carry out for the remaining four years.
The most noticeable change from the first season is in James Best's droll portrayal of Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane, a character who rode out much of the first season as a straight man to the terminally corrupt Boss Hogg. While the spectacular car crashes, the Duke's penchant for mischief, and Daisy's wardrobe always formed the basic formula for the show's success, turning Roscoe into Boss's sniveling yet incompetent toady really adds another dimension to the The Dukes of Hazzard, and results in some of the series's most memorable moments. Boss Hogg's constant berating of his cackling sheriff -- a stream of verbal abuse which Rosco dutifully passes on to Enos -- uses a plethora of TV-safe deep south insults, from "dipstick" and "kumquat" to the always popular "meadow muffin," as the show's villains good-naturedly engage in an entertaining game of one-upmanship for sheer campiness. Undercutting the basic silliness of the two characters, one second season episode, "Grannie Annie," has Rosco enlist the Duke boys to help save Boss Hogg from gangsters after he breaks down at the thought of permanently losing his "little fat buddy"; an interesting little scene which helps solidify the pair's curious friendship as something besides the sadistically comical back-and-forth it often seems to be.
Besides "Grannie Annie," there are several very good episodes on this set that rank among the best the show had ever produced. The season opener, "Days of Shine and Roses" takes the series back to its roots as Uncle Jesse and Boss Hogg get to arguing about who was the best driver in their old moonshine days, and they decide to have a drag race rematch. Although it plays a bit too much like a Scooby-Doo episode, "The Ghost of General Lee," is another fan favorite, which has all of Hazzard thinking that Bo and Luke have drowned in the General Lee, a notion they use to their advantage by giving the General a phosphorescent paintjob and spooking Boss and Rosco into revealing their latest evil plan. My own personal favorites here are "Hazzard Connection," in which the boys go undercover at a demolition derby, and the amusing "The Rustlers," which has Hogg trying to please his domineering wife Lulu by winning a horserace with the fastest steed in Hazzard County, while the Duke boys stop a pair of horse thieves with a likeminded idea.
This season also was the first to introduce some significant guest stars, who would almost always appear as themselves. In the first of these episodes, "The Dukes Meet Cale Yarborough," the famed NASCAR legend is worried some thugs working with Boss Hogg are out to steal his new turbo charger, and entrusts the secret device to the Dukes. In, "Find Loretta Lynn" the Dukes are called into action when the popular country singer is kidnapped by a garage band trying to get noticed in Nashville. In a smaller cameo role, The Oak Ridge Boys also make an appearance at local watering hole The Boar's Nest to perform "Old Time Lovin'." This was the first of Boss Hogg's "celebrity speed traps," a clever ongoing gimmick that brought Americana music acts to Hazzard County under the pretense that they were paying off trumped-up speeding tickets with a free performance for the locals.
When the shows on this set are good, they're honking Dixie, but when they're bad, they stink like a nasty cloud of exhaust on a beautiful summer day. Chief among the skippable episodes on this set are two shows that were proposed spin-offs. The first, "Jude Emery," was to star John Shearin as a country singin' Texas Ranger who always gets his man, and the more ambitious "Mason Dixon's Girls," is about a white-trash private detective who speeds across America with a pair of sexy assistants in a trailer home outfitted with a crime lab, hang gliders, and God knows what else. Needless to say, the Dukes are pretty much secondary characters in these episodes, which are far from representative of what makes the show work so well.
As you get fairly deep into the second season, the shows also hit a distinct rough patch, marred by cast problems behind the camera. Deputy Enos took a two-episode absence after Sonny Shroyer contracted appendicitis. Cletus Hogg (Rick Hurst), who would fully take over the role later in the show's run, is his substitute. Cooter disappears for several episodes after producers tried to force Ben Jones to shave off the beard and he walked off the set. He's replaced by his grease monkey "cousin" B.B. (Mickey Jones), and later, L.B. (Ernie W. Brown). More significant is the loss of Rosco P. Coltrane after James Best boycotted the show over unsafe dressing rooms. He's supplanted by a string of deputy sheriffs including nephew Hughie Hogg (Jeff Altman), Lester Crabb (Clifton James), Grady Byrd (Dick Sargent), and Buster Moon (James Hampton). One episode, "Officer Daisy Duke," even makes it look like Daisy was being primed to take over the vacant role. While the show rolls along well enough without Enos or Cooter, The Dukes of Hazzard without Rosco P. Coltrane is like the Roadrunner without Wile E. Coyote, and these particular episodes suffer dearly.
Another problem with these frequent cast changes is the fact that the episodes were aired out of production order, so the shows in which Rosco was supposedly "away at the police academy" are not sequential on this DVD set. Perhaps, in this case, it would have made more sense to release this show as produced, since both the cast changes and certain plot elements have no continuity in this current arrangement. In the episode "The Runaway," Bo and Luke crash Daisy's Plymouth Roadrunner off of a cliff, and she receives "The Dixie," the familiar white jeep emblazoned with an eagle as a replacement -- even though the jeep has already appeared in a prior episode, and the Roadrunner subsequently materializes later on.
While the shows themselves may represent a distinct improvement over the first season set, Warner Brothers' The Dukes of Hazzard: The Complete Second Season hasn't improved much as a whole. The episodes themselves are passable -- a little grimy, a little worn, but with the bright colors that the series has always exhibited. Likewise, the audio is perfectly serviceable, with the show's lack of fidelity easily explained away by the mono source material. Still, dialogue always sounds perfect, music is well represented, and the glass-smashing, metal-crunching crack-up sound effects are just as lively as you remember them. While not perfect, you really can't complain too much about the transfer of this 25-year-old TV show; it's just exactly the same as the first season.
Unfortunately, whereas The Dukes of Hazzard: The Complete First Season had a few interesting supplemental features, including a commentary track with John Schneider and Catherine Bach, this set is pretty disappointing when it comes to extras. Disc One houses about five minutes of screen tests between John Schneider and Tom Wopat, which are enjoyable, but probably not something you'll want to watch more than once. On the final disc, you'll find a documentary about "Extreme Hazzard," Ben Jones's Dukesfest reunion and convention that offers a chance for fans to see mocked-up General Lees, recreated stunts, and a concert, all while interacting with the stars of the show. It's a generally interesting feature, especially for those who have actually been to Dukesfest, but at half an hour, it's much too long, padded out with completely gratuitous slow motion replays of the car stunts. If I wanted to see it again, fellas, I'd rewind it myself. Instead, I had my finger on the fast forward button throughout, stopping only to see how Catherine Bach, James Best, and Sonny Shroyer look nowadays. Tom Wopat and John Schneider are conspicuously missing from the festivities.
Like much of the series, The Dukes of Hazzard: The Complete Second Season hits a few roadblocks, but when the pedal hits the metal, the show roars off with a squeal of the tires, and a distinct whiff of motor oil. Recommended for die hard Duke fans and nostalgia hounds alike. Yeehaw!
Innocent. The court recognizes that the Dukes are just good old boys, never meaning no harm.
Review content copyright © 2005 Paul Corupe; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 1150 Minutes
Release Year: 1980
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* "Extreme Hazzard" Documentary
* John Schneider and Tom Wopat Screen Tests
* The Dukes of Hazzard: The Complete First Season