Warner Home Video presents
The Dukes of Hazzard: The Complete First Season (1979)
"Making their way, the only way they know how
That's just a little bit more than the law will allow."- Waylon Jennings (from the show's theme song)
Stars: Tom Wopat, John Schneider, Catherine Bach
Other Stars: James Best, Denver Pyle, Sorrell Booke, Ben Cooper, Sonny Shroyer, Waylon Jennings
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (mild violence)
Run Time: 13h:00m:00s
Release Date: 2004-06-01
DVD ReviewAt the start of the 1970s, CBS was riding high in the Nielsen's as America's most watched network. Four of the programs aiding in the success were rurally-themed hits: Green Acres, The Beverly Hillbillies, Mayberry R.F.D., and the biggest surprise on the schedule, Hee Haw, the unlikely mixture of variety show and cornball humor that attracted twice as many viewers as the soon to be pink-slipped Ed Sullivan (after 23 years). But there was no joy in Cornfield County, much less Hooterville, Mayberry and the "hills of Bev-er-lee.". Though all four of these shows were winning their time slots and still had beyond favorable ratings, their cast and crews joined the unemployment line in the springtime of 1971. Seems as though the higher-ups at CBS thought there was more money to be made with more sophisticated and topical fare as evidenced by the steadily increasing numbers for The Mary Tyler Moore Show and a quietly introduced mid-season replacement series that would, within months, become one of the sit-coms that defined the decade: All in the Family.
Seven years later, the good times weren't as good for the folks at Black Rock. Mary and the gang had turned out the lights at WJM, Archie Bunker started mellowing, and old warhorses like Carol Burnett and Gunsmoke had passed into television history. So what's a worried network to do? Go back to the country, of course.
Mere months after giving the go-ahead for a second season of Dallas, CBS set aside another Friday night time slot for The Dukes of Hazzard, a deep-fried combination of action and adventure with a little homespun family warmth sprinkled in. Bo and Luke Duke (John Schneider, Tom Wopat) are a couple of good ol' boys and tight-knit brothers who always seem to be in trouble with what passes for the local law enforcement, nincompoop sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane (James Best), who in actuality has to answer to Hazzard County's sharply attired, food-lovin' commissioner, "Boss" Hogg (Sorrell Booke). But in the tradition of Robin Hood (and maybe Perry Mason), the Duke boys always seemed to find an 11th hour solution to checkmate the not-so-bad guy in the white hat; it certainly didn't hurt when their gorgeous cousin, Daisy (Catherine Bach), got into the act using her charm and (ahem!) assets (can you say "short shorts"?), which not only aided in distracting the occasional shady characters passing thru, but also helped keep Roscoe's dim-witted but lovable deputy, Enos (Sonny Shroyer), at bay.In between the car chases (in that seemingly indestructible 1969 orange Dodge Charger, a.k.a. The General Lee), yee-hawing, brawls, and Roscoe's often foiled attempts at dastardly doings, there is feisty but sweet Uncle Jessie (Denver Pyle), who kept Bo, Luke, and Daisy straight when needed and, more valuably, always knowing just the right words to say.
It was with a mixture of dread, curiosity, and anticipation that I revisited the debut season of Dukes, and I'll be doggone if it hasn't aged better than a few of its prime-time compatriots from that period. Waylon Jenning's down-home narration, the wide-eyed enthusiasm of its then-unknown leads, terrific incidental music (courtesy of Waylon's fabulous backing band, The Waylors), great stunt driving, a way above-average supporting cast—is it any wonder that this show cemented itself into pop culture the way it did? In fact, it actually challenged its Friday evening neighbors, Dallas, for the Nielsen crown during its third season, eventually settling for runner-up.
Although there's not a weak episode included, standouts include Daisy's Song, where musical pirates con our would-be singer/songwriter out of potential royalties for a tune meant for Jessie Colter (Jenning's beloved wife; former Gomer Pyle sidekick Ronnie Schell is perfectly cast as the gnarly head of the bootlegging ring); Luke's Love Story, where the brunet one falls hard for a hotshot racecar driver (shades of Happy Days' Pinky Tuscadero, courtesy of Roz Kelly, the actress who originated that role filling a similar part here) with Bo only complicating matters by putting the General Lee up for grabs in a bet; sly references to Ocean's Eleven, an outing that finds Boss Hogg attempting to swindle an Atlanta bank out of a million bucks; Limo One Is Missing, a farfetched but hilarious tale of how a peanut farmer Chief Executive's mode of transportation is taken for a spin by everyone's favorite Hazzard mechanic, Cooter (Ben Jones), much to the Duke boys' dismay; and the brilliant pilot episode, One Armed Bandits, where Roscoe implements Bo and Luke in a series of illegal slot machine placements.
Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B+
|Aspect Ratio||1.33:1 - Full Frame|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: I can see quite a few fans greeting the visuals of this set with rousing "yee-haws". Country miles ahead of the versions given to the Nashville Network and local outlets: natural colors, a smooth filmlike appearance, and a surprising lack of age-related nicks and scratches that usually detract from fully enjoying series from this period. Only the earliest episodes on Side 1 suffer from the effects of time, but not to the point of distracting your eyeballs for too long of a spell.
Image Transfer Grade: B
Audio Transfer Review: What a shame stereo television was still a ways off at the time of Dukes; to hear the barrelhouse piano music accompanying the car chases and so on would have been something. But the mono soundtracks to each episode are nicely equalized with pretty good fidelity to boot.
Audio Transfer Grade: B
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 78 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Co-Stars Catherine Bach and John Schneider on Pilot Episode (One Armed Bandits
Packaging: Box Set
- The 20th Anniversary Hazzard County Barbecue
- Dukes Driving 101: A High Octane Salute
- The Dukes of Hazzard: The Returnn of General Lee-Video Game Preview
Dukes Driving 101 is a puff piece with NASCAR drivers getting all worked up about what the show meant to them as kids, but it's enjoyable to see these guys behaving no differently than your average fan when talking about their favorite show.
The General Lee video game preview is a minor bonus, only of interest to the cartridge competitor faithful, but the quality meter goes back up for The 20th Anniversary Hazzard County Barbecue, a delightful half-hour that reunites most of the surviving principles (except for Wopat) swapping memories, lots of laughs, and one unbelievably funny incident involving Bach and one of her co-stars that made her blush—I'll just leave it at that for the uninitiated.
Extras Grade: B
Final CommentsIt looks like 2005 will be the year of the Dukes with future season boxed sets in the works and a brand new feature film with Sean William Scott, Johnny Knoxville, Jessica "Fish or Chicken" Simpson, Willie Nelson, and Burt Reynolds.
To prep yourself or simply travel back in time with the original for nostalgia's sake, The Dukes of Hazzard: The Complete First Season is the way to go.
Jeff Rosado 2005-01-06