A Fact-Check for the Four-Color World

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

The Geography of Hazzard County

Speaking of mountains and John Schneider shows (how's that for a segue?)...

I recently rented the first few episodes of The Dukes of Hazzard. I'd never watched a full episode before, and I must say that I took to it rather quickly. It's good fun, although I can't help but wonder why the Duke boys didn't lose probation for their repeated assaults and car thefts.

One particularly fun aspect of those first few episodes is that they were shot right near where I currently live, down in Conyers and Covington, Georgia. (Covington, you may recall, was also used to shoot the In the Heat of the Night TV show.) I recognized the Covington town square and courthouse, which both got frequent use early on. The second episode was partly set and shot in Atlanta, and my parents were better at recognizing locations than I.

The reason I say "the first few episodes" is that Dukes was only shot in and around Covington through the fifth episode. Starting with the sixth episode, all shooting was moved to California, outside Los Angeles. This was despite the fact that the fictional Hazzard County was explicitly set in Georgia. Not only did they have to build sets to replace the real bar and town square, but that was the least of it.

Then suddenly, in that sixth episode ("Swamp Molly"), Hazzard County is full of mountains. There's not a single mountain in the first five episodes, because there's not a true mountain (except for Stone Mountain) within 50 miles of Covington. Instead of being on fairly flat country roads, the chases take place among the mountains. Plus, the vegetation and foliage stops looking like that of Georgia, and starts looking an awful lot like West Coast greenery.

As much as I enjoyed those first five episodes, I gotta admit that the changes evidenced in episode six sorta dull my enthusiasm for watching further episodes. The show just doesn't feel like Georgia anymore. The exteriors look like California, the interiors look like sets, and even the actors are lit differently. The show starts feeling less authentic and more staged.

Still, I recommend checking out that first DVD. Those first five episodes are great stuff, and John Schneider and Catherine Bach's commentary on the pilot is one of the best I've heard. In fact, I wish I could buy the single disc without having to invest in a season set.