‘Dukes of Hazzard’: John Schneider Described Being ‘Replaced’ on Show as ‘Horrifying’

by Matthew Wilson

There were three irreplaceable things on “The Dukes of Hazzard” show. The car they drove in called the General Lee and the Duke boys themselves. But it turned out that last part wasn’t exactly true. During the height of the show’s popularity, production gave both of the Duke actors the boot.

Actors John Schneider and Tom Wopat portrayed the rebellious cousins living in Hazzard county. But during Season Five, the show introduced two new Duke cousins to replace the actors. Coy and Vance Duke were poorly conceived knock-offs of Bo and Luke Duke. They’re the discount versions quite literally.

At the time, Schneider and Wopat were engaged in tense negotiations with the studio. They attempted to renegotiate their contracts for merchandising royalties. When talks stalled, the show just replaced them with two look-alikes.

“That was a difficult time. We were not asking for anything except what was owed to us,” Schneider told the Local Voice. “Hot Wheels, shirts, albums, models, you name it, had our faces all over them. And they were not willing to talk. To get the call telling me that we had been replaced was horrifying. I thought that may have been the end of the show right there. The fans were not having it though.”

‘The Dukes of Hazzard’ Ratings Dropped

Rather than giving into the demands, the studio thought they could just replace the actors and characters. For Season Five, they brought in two new actors similar in personality and appearance. But audiences rarely like a significant change to their TV programming, much less losing the lead actors. The move was poorly received by “The Dukes of Hazzard” fanbase.

For one, neither Coy nor Vance had been mentioned on the show previously. Their characters appeared literally out of nowhere. Season Five ended up being one of the worst of the series. The Duke boys were gone for a total of 19 episodes out of 22. The studio only brought back Schneider and Wopat after the show started to tank without them. Ratings dropped significantly and Warner Brothers stepped in to settle the dispute.

The show never quite recovered from the replacement. Fans felt like their trust in “The Dukes of Hazzard” had been broken by the switch for instance. The budget for the show also decreased in the later series as well. Miniature models replaced the high-stakes stunt work of the earlier seasons. The show ultimately came to a conclusion after its seventh season in 1985.