22 January 2011

"The Dukes of Hazzard" The Complete First Season

The Dukes of Hazzard The Complete First Season
Starring: Tom Wopat, John Schneider, Catherine Bach, Denver Pyle and James Best as Sheriff Rosco Coltrane
Also Starring Sorrell Booke as Boss Hogg, Ben Jones as Cooter and Waylon Jennings as The Balladeer
Written and Directed by: Various
Created by Gy Waldron
13 episodes, 687 minutes
DVD Release Date: 1 June 2004
List Price: $27.98

I was 57 days old when "One Armed Bandits" aired, and my parents each recall me watching the show from my playpen.  I remember spending many an afternoon during the summer of 1996 watching re-runs on TNN, and I didn't care when they cycled back around so the show is fairly well etched in my memory after all these years.  In fact, I was surprised at how sharply I could recall lines of dialog from "Limo One Is Missing" (one of my favorite episodes in the entire series).  You have to know going into the show that you're going to get some relatively tame storytelling with more than a kernel of cornball.  It can be deterring, but I found the charm of the show transcended those elements and that the fun spirit still comes across all these years later for the DVD Talk TV on DVD* Challenge.  It's probably worth noting that I watched most of this box set in the course of the last 15 hours, in between frequent and painful trips to the bathroom.  Stupid Crohn's disease!

That first season was a bit rough around the edges, and might raise an eyebrow among more casual viewers.  There are references to prostitution in a few episodes, and even Bo and Luke partake in beers at the Boars Nest (in later seasons, they'd never actually have a drink).  Boss Hogg and Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane aren't quite the out-and-out buffoons that they became, either.  Sorrell Booke is rather imposing in his way, and while everyone's eyes were always on the lovely Catherine Bach I think I finally saw this time around that it was James Best who stole the show.  I found myself empathizing with the career law officer whose pension was taken away by public vote.  When you're watching from your playpen, things like that don't quite resonate.

As for the DVD release, I despise flipper discs and it's rather puzzling that Warner Bros. felt the need to split up 13 episodes on three flippers here (especially since there's nothing on the B side of Disc 3!).  I had a problem getting Disc 2 Side B to read, but eventually got it going.  Some of the a/v quality is suspect, but I do believe it's as good as these now-32 year old episodes are ever going to look and sound.  There's only one commentary track to be found, but it's a delight to hear actors John Schneider and Catherine Bach watch "One Armed Bandits" together and reminisce.  Schneider in particular did his homework, and keeps the commentary moving with trivia and insight.  The rest of the features include a 30 minute cast reunion (minus the deceased Booke and Denver Pyle, and the conspicuously absent Tom Wopat) trading stories, which is fairly enjoyable.  A brief clip of assorted NASCAR drivers commenting on the show is pretty thin, and the only other feature is a trailer for The Dukes of Hazzard: Return of the General Lee video game.  I feel fairly satisfied overall.

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