"The Dukes": Running from the Law Was Never This Boring
The Dukes of Hazzard county are leaving their home! In a global race with Boss Hogg to win money to save their family farm, they’ll travel to all sorts of destinations. Leprechauns, ghosts, and even the old Loch Ness Monster will have to cringe at the sound of the Dixie horn blaring from the General Lee, as Luke, Bo, Coy, Vance, and Daisy travel in a constant race with Boss Hogg and Rosco P. Coltrane. Are those Duke Boys up to no trouble again, in this box set collecting the whole animated series?
First off: this thing exists. At the height of The Dukes Of Hazzard‘s popularity, Hanna Barbera made an animated series based on it. How do you turn a live-action series about three cousins running moonshine and saving the town from the nefarious antics of a corrupt city official into a cartoon show? How do you tone down the sexuality of a character who iconicized a pair of very short shorts? What do you do when the main draw of the series (beyond the very short shorts) is car stunts, and the loved-by-women pretty boy antics of the man-who-would-become Pa Kent and, well, Tom Wopat?
You throw them into the laziest world race ever. If you ever thought that the crew running the Wacky Races were, well, inconsistent with their track monitoring performances, you’ve NEVER seen the crew of the race that the Dukes are involved in. You never get a name, and you never see any cars in the race other than the General Lee and Boss Hogg’s Hoggmobile (no idea if it’s called the “Hoggmobile”, but it works), and on multiple occasions the race completely stops for the gang to solve a crime or celebrate a holiday. The whole concept is based off the Dukes wanting to win prize money to save their farm, but looking at the amount of gas that it must take to power a Dodge Charger across multiple continents (presumably racing on water to get from land to land, as we never see them having any issue defeating the problems of modern-day movement), it seems foolhardy. Hell, start the race, let Boss Hogg think he’s consistently ahead, and return to Hazzard County and continue on with your lives.
The series does seem to take strides with expanding the world of The Dukes in very cartoonish manner. The car can perform feats unheard of even today, like launching through roofs of two-story buildings, surviving landing those launches, and then play chicken with a train. Previously normal animals are now at near-Scooby levels of cerebration, and leprechauns really exist. The series even manages to fit in A Christmas Carol parody starring Boss Hogg, which would have ironically fit perfectly in an episode of the live-action series, as it’s one of the many where they derail the race plot.
One of the glaring oddities about the world of The Dukes is the major cast change between the two seasons that is never referenced on-screen. As The Dukes started when, as they shall be named, the Fake Dukes of Coy and Vance were on the live-action series, they starred in the first season. For the second season, Bo and Luke returned from NASCAR/contract negotiations at that point in the series, so they arrived in the cartoon. Did the race restart? The new intro has Bo and Luke leaving Hazzard County at the start of the race. It does place a new look on the series format; maybe the second season is less of a race, and actually about Boss Hogg and Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane tracking down the murderous Bo and Luke (and their accomplish, Daisy) across the globe, after the grisly murder of Coy and Vance. The True Dukes were on probation for some reason or another; maybe Hazzard County’s lax law enforcement (apparently capable of leaving the county for extended world tours, or attempting to enforce their legal powers way outside their jurisdiction in Zimbabwe) allowed them to literally get away with murder.
Audibly (if it’s actually “audio-bly”, blame the Dukes for bringing out our inner-Southern drawls), the series has its hits and misses. Coy, Luke, Bo, Vance, Daisy, Rosco, Uncle Jesse, and Boss Hogg are all voiced by their original TV actors. For some, it’s obvious that they were not used to voicing cartoons (most likely a similar situation to Jackie Chan being unable to actually accurately portray Jackie Chan in Jackie Chan Adventures beyond yells and screams). Of course, Frank Welker’s in there, voicing all manner of creature (and apparently The General Lee as well, according to Wikipedia, but a talking car is one thing this series is surprisingly lacking). Sorrell Booke, the infamous and dastardly Boss Hogg, honestly pulls off an entertaining role as the goofy villain. Much in the vein of any number of Hanna-Barbera villains, he’s over the top and non-threatening enough that he’s almost a likable bad guy, only out for money and power, and never truly endangering them Duke Boys. Of course, since their car can now automatically add skis and inflatable tires, it’d be impossible to hurt the heroes of Hazzard County. For a series nearly 30 years old, it was made before an era where the Kevin Conroys, Mark Hamills, Billy West, and others were heralded as great voice actors, and was more “Hey, this show is voiced by all your favorite actors!”. There are chunks though, no matter how poor or strong the voice acting is, that the audio is just poorly mixed, with the background tracks overwhelming the actors. It happens a decent amount in the second season, and while it couldn’t be considered a breaking point, it is annoying.
Visually, the show is almost stock Hanna-Barbera. Nothing jumps out, outside of the sometimes overly realistic actors, showing a little bit of Pa Kent in Bo Duke. Animation displays all of the cheats and flaws of the era.
This is part of the Warner Archive Collection’s Manufacture-On-Demand series, basically meaning you get nothing but the episodes. You know how old DVDs advertised “animated menus” or whatever? This set doesn’t even have them. You have episode selections. There’s not even a custom background or anything; this is stock DVD menus.
As said earlier in the review, this show “exists”. If you are a Dukes fan, you’ll definitely end up picking up this oddity. If you don’t know of the Dukes, stay far away. You can get way better race series or even mystery shows from Hanna-Barbera themselves. Yet, if you pine for more hooterin’ and a hollering’ from them Duke Boys, go ahead and pick it up.
The Dukes is available from Warner Archive.