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The Hazards of TeeVee

It's eerily akin to the moment before your car slams into the driver in front of you. There's the sudden shock of realization, the cold of adrenaline rushing into your bloodstream, the crawl of time suddenly gone slow. You can't move, you can't react, you can't change anything.

There you are, pleasantly zipping around the tube -- click, click, click -- when suddenly, without warning, it's in front of you, looming and horrible. Your finger freezes, your mind falls blank, your mouth opens but you can't summon the air to scream: Racing across the screen in a cloud of dirt and big hair, speeds a red-orange stockcar with a white "01" on the side and a Confederate flag on the roof.

It's "The Dukes of Hazzard."

Future archaeologists will undoubtedly stumble across archived episodes of "The Dukes of Hazzard" and their early Nielsen numbers and mark the era as yet another significant drop in the deepening spiral of the madness of America. Explaining how two hillbilly brothers, an idiot sheriff and a spooky, white-clad, floppy-jowled small-town crime boss could so captivate the America viewing audience will earn someone a Ph.D.

While many childhood shows still hold pleasures -- the perversion of "Superfriends" into a Gingrichian screed notwithstanding -- "The Dukes of Hazzard" is wholly moronic, totally without merit, a complete and utter waste of time, effort and however slight ability. Except for Daisy in her cut-offs.

The names ring ancient and hopefully forever deadened bells: Bo 'n Luke, Boss Hogg, Roscoe P. Coletrain, Enos, General Lee, Cooter, Uncle Jesse. For extra points, circle the character that was a car.

It seems fitting somehow that the Dukes have made their reappearance on the Nashville Network, home of big hats and small forebrains. The Boys anticipated the rise of country music -- and the foot-stompin', rope-twirlin', bow-and-arrow-with-dynamite-attached-shootin' culture associated with it -- by many years. Blowing up outhouses obviously struck a deep sociological cord in the American psyche, and the result is Garth Brooks.

The episode I stumbled across, and had to wipe off the bottom of my shoe, involved cars and a crazy scheme of Boss Hogg's to get the Dukes to violate their parole and cars. If you can believe it. The guy who wrote the summary paragraph for TV Guide must have loved this show.

I came in just after various muscle-bound, mustachioed evil-doers had done something or other to something or other -- you don't really want specifics, do you? -- and sped off in the kind of car that everybody on TV drives when they're going to bang it up. The Duke Boys give chase.

After several minutes of cars zooming around backlots and bumping into each other -- the Dukes undoubtedly spend their welfare checks down at Cooter's getting the weekly dents banged out and the suspension replaced -- they screech to a halt, sloppy editing somehow placing our heroes in front of the bad guys. Unmindful of the wide open country that surrounds them in every direction but straight head, and ignoring the fact that it takes the Dukes a good five or six minutes to scramble out of the General Lee because the damned doors are welded shut, the thugs clamor out of their car and commence t' fightin'.

A few punches are thrown, a few tumbles are taken, a few leaps to the rescue are made and eventually Bo and Luke secure one of the bad guys for questioning.

"Who paid you?" they demand.

"Boss Hogg," he responds, unaware that the wily crime boss has slowly and personally tortured every man that's ever betrayed him. Or, more likely, the producers didn't want to tax their audience with an extra two or three lines of dialogue. A four minute car chance and three seconds of interrogation, and the Dukes have their answer.

They look at each other with sudden realization: "Boss Hogg!" Zounds!

And it was at this point that my sense of self-preservation reasserted itself and my thumb slammed down onto the remote and the Dukes were gone, save for the stench of millions of vaporized neurons.

I'm not even going to mention the reunion show that's reportedly planned, because then the sobbing will start again.


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