Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Dukes of Hazzard Character Swaps

The Dukes of Hazzard did a lot of things right.  It was a hit television show that was universally loved.  It spawned an array of collectibles that I discuss daily.  Launched its cast to super stardom. Created a huge number of devoted Dukes fans.  Inspired a remake movie.  And still entertains millions today.  It did a lot of things right, but the Dukes of Hazzard really messed up when it came to treating the characters, and actors who portrayed them, with respect.  Throughout the show, the producers swapped characters with little regard to continuity or fan reaction.  The moves made during production would never happen on today's television.  Let's look a little deeper at these swaps.

The most notorious swap came in season five.  If you even know a little about the Dukes of Hazzard, you know about Bo and Luke being replaced by Coy and Vance.  The abbreviated story is John and Tom weren't getting their rightful share of the merchandising money from the show.  It's funny to think that these items I blog about are the reason Bo and Luke left.  John and Tom said "Bo and Luke wouldn't be cheated, and neither will we."  They went on strike and assumed the show couldn't go on without them.  The show shouldn't have gone on without them, but Warner Bros. had other plans. They believed the true star of the show was the General Lee and its drivers weren't important.  In a huge insult to the cast and fans, they simply wrote Bo and Luke out.  The first line of the season five opener from balladeer Waylon Jennings informed us that Bo and Luke left Hazzard to drive NASCARs and they weren't mentioned again.  Coy and Vance were introduced as "Dukeyer" Dukes that Boss Hogg was even more worried about.  Uncle Jesse and Daisy were happy to have the new Dukes fighting the system with them and Cooter was excited to see them.  There was no mention of Bo and Luke breaking parole or why Coy and Vance didn't use guns.  The producers just slipped them in, thinking no one would notice.

We all noticed.  It had to be a hard situation for everyone.  Byron Cherry and Christopher Mayer were thrown in to the deep end.  With no warning, they were the stars of a hit show.  The scripts were just changed from Bo to Coy and Luke to Vance.  They even wore our Duke Boys' shirts.  It was a mess.  The remaining cast couldn't be happy about their friends being treated that way.

Imagine today if you tuned in to see Sons of Anarchy and a different scruffy faced blonde was at the head of the table.  This new guy wasn't named Jax, but Dax and all the other characters just accepted him.  Or Jesse Pinkman's brother was helping Mr. White cook up a few batches while Jesse was in rehab.  Or how about Adam and Barry leave Jenkintown to pursue their hair band dreams.  While they're gone Jacob and Alan get snuggled by their "smaunt."  It wouldn't happen today.  The producers don't have the power.  The stars are the stars and have at least enough control to stop it. Toward the end of season five, John and Tom settled with Warner Brohers and Bo and Luke returned. Perhaps they could have given a little closure to Coy and Vance, but they just sent them on their way and Bo and Luke were back at like nothing ever happened.

The Duke Boys were the most infamous swap, but not the only one.  Not by far.  They actually did one successfully.  We met Cletus Hogg early on in season 1.  He had a natural back story where he was Boss's third cousin, twice removed.  First he drove an armored car, but filled in for Enos when he was getting his tonsils taken out.  Enos left the show because his character seemed popular enough to lead his own show.  He went to Los Angeles to join the LAPD and Hazzard needed a deputy.  Cletus fit in nicely.  He didn't try to emulate Enos and was his own character.  There was an episode where he fell for Daisy, but everyone fell for Daisy.  Enos eventually returned to Hazzard.  In another misstep by the producers, they put Enos and Cletus in the same patrol car.  To keep the formula going, they couldn't add another patrol car and have three cars chase the General.  It was also during season five when Coy and Vance where behind the wheel.  By the time Bo and Luke got back, Cletus was gone with no explanation.  We didn't see him again until the reunion.  Even though they botched the end of Cletus's run, he was the only successful character swap on the Dukes.

You painfully remember Coy and Vance for not being Bo and Luke, and you fondly remember Cletus for is contribution to the Hazzard County Police Department.  But it didn't stop there.  There are other character swaps you may not even remember.

Ben Jones had his issues with the production of the show.  The story goes that he felt Cooter should have a beard and WB wanted him clean shaven.  WB did what WB used to do and swapped Cooter out.  There were two other Davenports that ran the Hazzard County Garage.  First B.B. Davenport drove the tow truck.  His name was on the decal on the tow truck and everything.  B.B. was played by Mickey Jones.  He has been in a lot of things, most recently he appeared on Justified.  A couple episodes later, B.B. was replaced by L.B. Davenport.  Again, no explanation as to where Cooter was, or why the tow truck decal now read "Hazzard County Garage L.B. Davenport Proprietor."  L.B. lasted three episodes.  He was played by Ernie W. Brown.  Ernie played Dobro Doolan in the pilot episode.  Weird.  Thankfully Ben settled his differences with Warner Bros. and Cooter came back.  I guess the reason they kept pulling these shenanigans is because they worked and the actor always came back.

Bo and Luke, then Cooter, and Enos, why stop there?  Everyone's favorite inept sheriff got swapped out too.  James Best's disagreement with the producers should have been fixed right from the beginning.  He wanted a decent dressing room when they were shooting outside of the WB sets. Rosco would often be seen getting out of his car in the mud after he didn't make the jump that the General Lee did.  Poor James just wanted decent working conditions.  WB wouldn't give it to him so he went on strike.  Just like before, they replaced him.  In the story lines, Rosco had to go back to the police academy for training.  Boss hired new sheriffs, but none could fill Rosco's Patrol Car.

They started off with Grady Byrd.  He was a familiar face.  Oddly enough, he had replaced Dick York on "Bewitched" years before.  After two episodes, Grady was replaced with Sheriff Buster Moon.  He was played by the dad from Teen Wolf, James Hampton.  One episode later Sheriff Lester Crab was chasing the Dukes.  He was played by Clifton James.  None of the characters brought anything new to the department.  Rosco was such an important part of the show and his chemistry with Boss Hogg was unparalleled.  James Best and WB settled their differences and Rosco came back to Hazzard with an adequate trailer.  Season two of the show was a weird one.  They also filmed episodes and showed them out of order.  Hughie Hogg, Boss's scheming nephew, was introduced in the episode "Uncle Boss" that was fimled during season two, but wasn't aired until season three.  After "Uncle Boss" was shot, Hughie was a replacement Sheriff in season two.  The first time you actually saw him on TV, he was filling in for Rosco, and didn't wear his signature white suit.  

But speaking of Hughie, he was swapped too.  After his reputation was set as a recurring character who came in occasionally, had a fool proof scheme to rid Hazzard of the Dukes, failed miserably, and was kicked out of town by Boss Hogg, he was swapped.  Hughie was in several episodes.  But before his last scheme, he was replaced with Dewey Hogg.  Now there isn't a well known story behind this one.  Mabye actor Jeff Altman was unavailable, or maybe the producers legitimately wanted to introduce a new character.  Dewey was very similar to Hughie in that he dressed like Boss and came into town with a scheme to get rid of the Dukes.  The episode was called "How to Succeed in Hazzard."  Dewey was played by Robert Morse who starred in the Broadway play and movie adaptation "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying" in the '60s.  It seems to me WB was making a parody of that show.  Maybe they brought in the star of the play and movie as a nod to it. They did something similar with the episode "Cool Hands Bo and Luke" in season 7.  The actor who played the Colonel in that episode also appeared in the 1967 movie "Cool Hand Luke."  I wonder if they based other episodes from '60s movies.  Time for more research.  Hughie came back for one more episode in season 7.

Dukes was a great show.  Sure, it was formulaic.  There wasn't much character development and things didn't change much in Hazzard.  But that's why we loved it.  But trying to keep to that formula too rigidly resulted in some major blunders.  Character swapping was at the top of the blunder list.  I'm happy none of the swaps lasted (with the exception of Cletus who should have stayed until the end.)  I think the show would have gone on for several more seasons if the Coy and Vance incident had never happened.  But we'll never know.



  1. So there was a Hughie and a Dewey...but no Louis/Lewie/Louey? Come on.

    1. They probably would have gotten there if the show wasn't cancelled.

    2. Very good synopsis. I too believe that Cletus should have been retained as a regular after proving his worth as a valuable character. I also feel that the series run would gave been extended had it not been for WB's callous treatment of the chemistry of its cast.

      Opinion: How long do you think the series would have gone if they were to have stayed the course of the Fab Five episodes?