The Dukes of Hazzard is an American action-comedy TV series which aired on CBS for seven seasons from 1979 to 1985. It was one of the most popular TV shows of the early 1980s, with a movie version of the show recently made in 2005 with the same title. The Dukes of Hazzard was intended to be a temporary show, but it became a ratings powerhouse and a merchandizing bonanza.
The show follows the adventures of the Duke Boys, cousins Luke Duke (played by Tom Wopat) and Bo Duke (John Schneider) who live on a family farm in the fictional Hazzard County. They live with their wise old Uncle Jesse Duke (Denver Pyle) and their attractive cousin Daisy Duke (Catherine Bach). The cousins would always race around in their Dodge Charger car which they call General Lee.
The boys usually work to evade the corrupt county commissioner Jefferson Davis “Boss” Hogg (Sorrell Booke), who either runs or has fingers in virtually everything in Hazzard County, making him able to engage in illegal schemes, and get-rich-quick plans, together with his bumbling and corrupt Sherrif Rosco P. Coltrane (James Best). Many of Hogg’s schemes affect the financial security of the Duke farm, which he wanted to acquire long ago for many reasons. Bo and Luke would always stumble over Hogg’s latest scheme, often by sheer luck or even by curiosity and the boys were always able to foil Hogg’s plans.
Check out some of these juicy, lesser-known facts about the show:
1. The show was inspired by the 1975 movie Moonrunners
The series was developed from the 1975 film Moonrunners, which was based on a real-life story of a famous bootlegger named Jerry Rushing. The series turned out to be a family-friendly version of the cruder and edgier film, although both are comedy. Many important parts, concepts and even names from the movie were used by the show. Also, many of the same actors appeared from the movie appeared on the TV show, playing the same characters. Because of these, Jerry Rushing ended up successfully suing the producers of The Dukes of Hazzard for royalties.
2. The show was supposed to fail
The success of the show came to be a huge shock to CBS. It was only created as a mid-season filler, with the original intention of only nine episodes. The executives at warner Bros. were impressed by the rough cuts of the completed episodes and saw potential in making the show a full-running series. However, one network executive, CBS Chairman William Paley, hated the show, and didn’t think that the show’s country humor wasn’t fitting for his refined tastes. In the 80s, when The Dukes of Hazzard became one of the top 10 series, he still publicly described the show as “lousy.” Another executive said that he didn’t expect the show to “last longer than the first commercial break.” But even with all these negativity, the show ended up running for 7 seasons.
3. Dennis Quaid was almost Luke Duke
The producers were open minded when they started casting for the show. Dennis Quaid was offered the role of Luke Duke, but he had a very specific condition – he would only accept the part if his then-wife, P.J. Soles, was cast as Daisy Duke. Because Soles wasn’t a proper fit for daisy, the producers refused. Catherine Bach was eventually cast as Daisy, and the role of Luke went to Tom Wopat.
4. John Schneider lied to get the part
John Schneider was a New York native who was only 18 years old when he auditioned for the show. Because he badly wanted the lead role of Bo Duke, he came up with a plan. Schneider lied about his age (the producers wanted someone 24-30 years old) and presented himself as somewhat of a redneck. He grew stubble, wore a cowboy hat, carried a can of beer, spit tobacco, and claimed to be from Snellville, Georgia. He also told them that he could do stunt driving, and claimed to be a graduate of Georgia School of High Performance Driving, which didn’t exist. His performance was convincing enough to land him the part.
5. Wopat and Schneider met on the bathroom
After Schneider was cast, the producers were looking for an actor who would complement him. Tom Wopat was a stage actor and a musician who was flown in for a screen test, and he entered a bathroom where Schneider was inside a stall (most probably taking a deuce). The two began talking about music as Schneider saw a guitar under the stall door, and they got along quickly. After flushing, the two did a scene together and Wopat was cast immediately.
6. Tom Wopat and Schneider walked out of the fifth season due to money disputes
Wopat and Schneider walked off the series in 1982 after their clash with the producers over merchandising royalties. The actors demanded a cut of the merchandising revenue, which was (by estimate) more than $190 million in 1981 alone. When the producers refused to give them their request, they walked off the show before season five started, and was replaced with Byron Cherry and Christopher Mayer, the cousins of the Duke boys. However, fans of the show didn’t like them. The two leads eventually came back to the show before the end of the fifth season.
7. Daisy Dukes became a fashion icon
In case you didn’t know, the famous jean shorts called Daisy Dukes – the skimpy, short shorts – became a hit because of The Dukes of Hazzard. As the bombshell role of Catherine Bach, Daisy Dukes was always wearing short shorts that these apparel was eventually named after her. The star’s shorts are considered as an iconic part of American culture and history that they were on display in the Smithsonian Institute. But during the run of the show, the network was concerned that the censors wouldn’t allow them, insisting that the shorts were too scandalous for primetime TV. Eventually, they decided that Catherine wear an extremely sheer pantyhose under the shorts to make sure there were no clothing malfunctions.
8. General Lee received the most fan mail
Back in the day, fans used to write letters to the stars of their favorite shows, before commenting on their Instagram or Facebook posts became the norm. So, while Schnider and Wopat were the stars of the show, the producers quickly found out that the main attraction of the show was the 1969 Dodge Charger (General Lee) that brought Bo and Luke from one caper to another. In 1981, out of the 60,000 letters that the series received, 35,000 of them was about asking information or pictures of the car. The car was the audience’s favorite star more than anyone.
9. The iconic “hood slide” was an accident
A staple (which eventually turned to be a cliché) in action films everywhere, the hood slide became an iconic move that every kid in America tried to replicate. Luke Duke popularized it, as he would run and slide knees first over the hood of the General Lee, and then he would jump in the car through the window. However, this was actually an accidental improvisation by the actor Tom Wopat. The directors liked it so much that they made it a staple on the show.
10. There was a shortage of Dodge Charger during the run of the show
Because the show was action-packed, many cars were crashed and destroyed during stunts. The police sedans were easy for the studio to replace, but the Dodge Charger became hard to find. During one period of the show’s run, Warner Bros. had a shortage of the car that employees were asked to leave notes on the windshields of Chargers they find, and then offer to buy them in cash. Overall, the show used about 150 General Lees, because usually, one was destroyed per episode as a result of stunt work.