In 1977, Guy Waldron was approached by Warner Brothers about developing a family fare TV series from his 1975 theatrical comedy movie “Moonrunners.”
“Moonrunners” was a crude and edgy comedy film about a poor Georgia family making moonshine runs and having trouble with the law. He collaborated with ex-moonshiner Jerry Rushing for the original story line plot for the film.
Production began filming around Covington and Conyers, Georgia, in October 1978 for only nine episodes for a mid-season filler, “The Dukes of Hazzard.”
After finishing production for the fifth episode, “High Octane,” the cast and crew broke for the Christmas holiday, expecting to return in several weeks’ time to complete the ordered run of limited episodes. Meanwhile, Warner Brothers executives were impressed with the rough preview cuts and saw potential for a full-running comedy/action series.
They moved further production to a studio lot in Burbank, California.
“The Dukes of Hazzard” premiered in the Friday 9 o’clock time slot on CBS on Jan. 26, 1979. I was in seventh grade and growing up in Southern California. After watching the TV show, I’d go to bed and dreamed about being part of the episode’s adventures.
The story line plot for the television program were simple and light. Widower farmer Jesse Duke (Denver Pyle) made a deal with U.S. government to stop making moonshine in order to keep his two nephews out of prison. Instead, the Duke boys are on probation and report regularly with an officer of the court.
Luke Duke (Tom Wopat) was the older, dark-haired boy and a former Marine. His character was supposed to be only a few years older than his younger, blond cocky cousin Bo (John Schneider). In actuality, there was a 10- year difference in age between Wopat and Schneider.
They drove around in an orange 1969 Dodge Charger with a Confederate flag logo on the roof of the car, which was named the General Lee.
Their sexy, dark red-haired cousin Daisy Duke (Catherine Bach), was often involved with her male cousins’ capers and employed at the Boar Nest as a barmaid. She was responsible for coming up with the idea for her costume of the short-shorts for her character. Now, when we see someone wearing short-shorts, we call them Daisy Dukes.
Commissioner Jefferson Davis “J.D.” Hogg (Sorrell Booke) acted as the Duke boys probation officer and they reported regularly to him. Boss Hogg was one of the wealthiest men in Hazzard County. He owned most of the property and businesses in the area including the mortgage to Jesse Duke’s farm; however, he was also very corrupt.
He was married to a fat woman named Lulu (Peggy Rea), and his brother-in-law was Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane (James Best).
Sheriff Coltrane referred to his friend the county commissioner as his little fat buddy. He had a female Basset Hound named Flash, who rode along in his patrol car. In the second season, he boycotted the show and was replaced by various sheriffs, including former “Bewitched” star Dick Sargent, who appeared in two episodes “Jude Emery” and “Officer Daisy Duke.”
Oftentimes, the Duke family found themselves fighting against one of Boss Hogg’s crooked schemes. Cooter Davenport (Ben Jones) was the owner of a local mechanic shop in Hazzard and friend of the Duke family. The Duke boys called him by his nickname Crazy Cooter. In the second season, he left the show temporarily while the television writers disputed whether he should be clean-shaven or have a full beard. Actors filled in as various cousins of Cooter’s until the conflict was resolved.
Another friend of the Duke Family was Deputy Enos Strate (Sonny Shroyer). He was often conflicted by his job and his friendship loyalty to the former moonshine family when he has to pursue the Dukes boys.
Also, he’s smitten with Daisy Duke, which makes him vulnerable to being fooled by her. In the fall of 1980, Shroyer left for his short-lived police comedy spin-off “Enos.” He was replaced by Deputy Cletus Hogg (Rick Hurst), Boss Hogg’s second cousin twice removed.
When the spin-off “Enos” failed to attract viewers, Shroyer returned to the original show in 1982 . Hurst’s Deputy Cletus Hogg was phased out.
Each episode of the The Dukes of Hazzard series was narrated by the voice of country singer Waylon Jennings, who played The Balladeer. When Schneider and Wopat walked out over a contract dispute, they were replaced by their lookalike Duke cousins Vance and Coy (Christopher Mayer and Byron Cherry). They returned to their roles in the sixth season, and the lookalike cousins departed.