‘Dukes of Hazzard’: John Schneider Explained How Show ‘Improved’ After He, Tom Wopat Returned from Leave

by Clayton Edwards

The Dukes of Hazzard ran for seven seasons between 1979 and 1985. During that run, it was one of the top-rated shows on the air. How could it fail? It had a little something for everyone. For starters, Waylon Jennings performed the theme song. So, every episode got off to a great start. Then, every episode was action-packed. Audiences were able to go on wild adventures with the Duke boys as they skirted corrupt law enforcement in their souped-up Charger, General Lee. On top of that, the show had eye candy for everyone. Bo, Luke, and Daisy were all easy on the eyes.

The TV series inspired a whole line of toys and other merchandise. So, the studio was raking in big profits from sales. However, the stars of the show weren’t seeing those profits in their paychecks. That, coupled with a dip in quality of scripts led John Schneider and Tom Wopat to leave The Dukes of Hazzard in protest.

So, when season four of The Dukes of Hazzard started, Bo and Luke were gone. Showrunners replaced them with Vance and Coy Duke. They were previously unmentioned nephews of Uncle Jesse. Bo and Luke were supposedly off racing on the NASCAR circuit. Fans didn’t buy it and the show’s ratings tanked. So, the studio finally came to an agreement with Wopat and Schneider. They made their return to the show late in the fourth season.

Wopat and Schneider’s return to The Dukes of Hazzard was a big deal for just about everyone. In fact, the duo did a round of press appearances to talk about their return. One of those appearances was an interview with Leta Powell-Drake for KOLN/KGIN-TV out of Lincoln Nebraska.

How The Dukes of Hazzard Improved When Bo and Luke Returned

It is important to remember that Wopat and Schneider didn’t leave The Dukes of Hazzard only because of financial reasons. In fact, one of their biggest complaints was that the show was steadily getting worse. They both believed that the scripts were going downhill. During their interview with Powell-Drake, Schneider talked about how the show would improve with their return.

Schneider said that everything on the show changed with their return. He went on to say, “I think the ratings are going to go up. I think it has a lot to do with, perhaps, everyone wanting to see us back on the show. But, everything has improved. The scripts have improved. It seems like a tremendous weight has been taken off of everybody.”

Schneider also said that everyone was working together to make The Dukes of Hazzard better. Because, at that time, the ratings had been slipping. However, he did not believe that the drop in ratings was due solely to his and Wopat’s departure. He said that it could have been because of the scripts, or that people were tired. He did toss his and his on-screen cousin’s departure on the list of possible reasons. But, he put it at the bottom of the list.

He went on to say that the great thing about going back to The Dukes of Hazzard was that they didn’t come back to a hostile environment. Instead, he and Wopat were welcomed back with open arms. At the same time, their leaving the show and subsequent return actually strengthened the relationship between the cast and crew of the show and its producers. So, they came back to a family of people working toward creating a better show. Because of these changes, Schneider concluded that the whole ordeal was worth it.