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‘Fame’ looks at ‘Dukes of Hazzard’

 (The Spokesman-Review)
(The Spokesman-Review)
Kevin McDonough United Feature Syndicate

Tonight’s “Inside Fame” (8 p.m., CMT) promises to discuss the cultural impact of “The Dukes of Hazzard.” Stars John Schneider (Bo Duke), Tom Wopat (Luke Duke), Catherine Bach (Daisy Duke), James Best (Rosco P. Coltrane), Ben Jones (Cooter Davenport) and Sonny Shroyer (Deputy Enos Strate) will glance back at “Dukes” moments.

While it’s easy to dismiss “Dukes” as just another country comedy – a “Beverly Hillbillies” with fast cars and hot pants – “Dukes,” which ran from 1979 to 1985, reached a wide audience and reflected many emerging trends in pop culture and even politics.

Like the “Smokey and the Bandit” movies that inspired it, “Dukes” was a celebration of “good ol’ boys” having fun and of a brazen anti-authority philosophy. In both “Smokey” and “Dukes,” the police and local politicians were depicted as dim and crooked.

And just in case you didn’t get the drift, “Dukes” was narrated by country music “outlaw” Waylon Jennings, who also sang the show’s theme song.

While the anti-establishment ardor of the 1960s had long since cooled, “Dukes” reflected a very different branch of dissent. During the oil crises of the early 1970s, the federal government tried to enforce a 55-mph speed limit on the highways. Truck divers exploded in protest.

These road rebels and their culture of defiance became, thanks in part to their reliance on CB radios, folk heroes celebrated in a whole new genre of country music. Speed and freedom became synonymous with resistance to federal authority.

And nothing symbolized speed and freedom more than the “Dukes” and their souped-up 1969 Dodge Charger, the General Lee.

“Dukes” was one of the few shows of its era that reflected Southern culture at the time that the region was showing considerable political, cultural and economic clout.

“Dukes” ran for six years and could have run longer, had stars Wopat and Schneider not walked off the set in 1982 in an attempt to earn a share of the royalties from “Dukes” merchandising. CBS replaced their characters after an audition of 2,230 applicants.

Byron Cherry and Christopher Mayer were cast to play Coy and Vance, Luke and Bo’s cousins. The narrator explained that the original pair had left Hazzard to give the NASCAR circuit a shot.

So, more than 20 years before media experts claimed to have “discovered” NASCAR, it was a plot device on “Dukes.” As fans know, Luke and Bo returned later that season, and their cousins were history after 1983.

Immediately following “Inside Fame,” CMT kicks off a weekend marathon of “The Dukes of Hazzard” (9 p.m.) episodes. The show will join the network’s regular lineup on Monday, airing at 7 p.m. and repeating at 11 p.m.

Other highlights

A good deed leads to surprising revelations on “Joan of Arcadia” (8 p.m., CBS).

On back-to-back episodes of “Bernie Mac” (Fox), a good time does not go unpunished (8 p.m.), and a visit from Mr. Funkadelic (George Clinton) himself (8:30 p.m.).

Indonesian intrigue on “JAG” (9 p.m., CBS).

Yokas vs. the vampires on “Third Watch” (9 p.m., NBC).

Members of a folk trio become homicide suspects on “Mystery Woman” (9 p.m., Hallmark).

Evidence of a cryptic conspiracy against mass transit on “Numb3rs” (10 p.m., CBS).

A D.C. scandal proves contagious on “Medical Investigation” (10 p.m., NBC).

Scheduled on “20/20” (10 p.m., ABC): a retrospective of Barbara Walters’ Oscar interviews over the past 23 years.

Series notes

Tom Bergeron hosts a two-hour edition of “America’s Funniest Home Movies” (8 p.m., ABC) … A rescue mission on “Star Trek: Enterprise” (8 p.m., UPN) … Luke Perry guest-stars on “What I Like About You” (8 p.m., WB).

On back-to-back episodes of “Reba” (WB), Van’s big move (8:30 p.m.), a canine caper (9 p.m.).

Lost in a wilderness of mirrors on “Jonny Zero” (9 p.m., Fox) … Missy Elliott hosts “The Road to Stardom” (9 p.m.) … A very “Brady” episode of “Blue Collar TV” (9:30 p.m., WB).

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