Mom forbade us from watching The Dukes of Hazzard, which made it seem like the best show ever. All I can say now is, “Dang, Mom. You were right.” (HAPPY BIRTHDAY!)
My mom raised seven kids1 over 35 years, and most of that time she didn’t even have cable. We kids watched TV constantly and Mom suffered through lots of garbage shows. But she did forbid a few programs, including The Dukes of Hazzard. Naturally, I assumed TDOH must be the best show EVER. Sometimes I’d sneak a viewing at a friend’s house, but mostly it remained mysterious and alluring to my young mind. Then I watched it as an adult and fully appreciated why Mom hated it. This show is proudly idiotic.
Let’s examine the prototype for all stupidity that followed the pilot, entitled “One Armed Bandits.” Surprise! It opens with a car chase. An orange stock car with a Confederate flag and the name “General Lee” painted on its roof is racing after a cop car. The show’s narrator a.k.a. “the balladeer” Waylon Jennings2 tells us off the bat: “This is Hazzard County. They do things different here.” Confederate flags on cars? Trust me, that’s not different anywhere in the south. Then he introduces the young men riding the General Lee, cousins Bo and Luke Duke. “They fight the system,” he explains. In this case, “the system” must include road construction, because they are tearing the shit out of some blockers and nearly kill several workers. Yes, friends, we’re getting into some hardcore Tea Party nonsense.
The cop car flips over, but the driver emerges unscathed. Zoinks! That’s not a cop, it’s the Duke boys’ creepy mechanic pal, Cooter. Apparently Cooter borrowed Luke’s car that morning, used it to run the Sheriff off the road, then stole the Sheriff’s car. When Bo asks why, Cooter says, “He impounded mine. Seemed only fair to take his.” Wow, imagine how this scenario plays out if these guys aren’t white. The Dukes notice there’s a slot machine dangling out the back window of the cop car. That’s when Cooter tells them the sheriff is smuggling illegal slot machines.
Cut to Sheriff Rosco Coltrane. The balladeer says Roscoe was a good cop until he lost his pension in a recent bond election. Now he’s “the best lawman money could buy,” taking bribes from crooks. Is that a corrupt use of power in the “every man for himself” Tea Party fantasy? I get confused. Facing reelection, Rosco must kiss up to Boss Hogg, the richest, most evil businessman in Hazzard County. We see Rosco meeting Boss Hogg at his hillbilly nightclub, the Boar’s Nest. The balladeer says Boss eats there “because his wife Lulu is a lousy cook.” Rosco tells Boss the rest of his slot machines are coming, then begs for a bigger bribe. Boss says he owes him no debt because, “I married your fat sister.” Damn, guess it’s bag on Lulu day.
In the next scene we meet Uncle Jesse, Duke family patriarch. He’s scolding his nephews for lending their car to Cooter. NOTE: Jesse is the only likable person here. Moments later, a woman knocks at his door and introduces herself as Jill Dobson. Bo remembers her as Little Jilly Dobson from school days. He says to Luke, “Ain’t it wonderful what hormones can do?” Congrats, Jill, you’re not a dog anymore. She says she’s back in Hazzard to save the orphanage where she grew up. The health department is demanding a full renovation and since they’re privately owned, they don’t qualify for county funds. Again, is this a happy part of the Tea Party fantasy or not? Bo tells Luke they need to help Jill. Luke says, “Nope.” Then Bo tries to hit on her, she shoots him down, Luke laughs and Bo asks if she just complimented him. Such are our heroes.