About Christmas TV History

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Dukes "A Dickens of a Christmas" (1983)

The complete series of The Dukes is available for viewing on DVD from the Warner Archive.

A few weeks ago at Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention, I gave a presentation about TV adaptations of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol.  One of the irreverent examples that I mentioned was 1980's "The Great Santa Claus Chase" from The Dukes of Hazzard.  Those same characters got another try at Dickens in the Hanna-Barbera Saturday morning cartoon spin-off The Dukes in the 1983 animated episode "A Dickens of A Christmas."  This animated version is a far more straight forward adaptation of the classic Dickens tale.  How long has it been since you've seen this episode?

The story unfolds as Uncle Jesse back on the farm reads a letter from Daisy in Europe detailing the Christmas events.

If you will remember, the set-up of this animated series is that the Duke boys and Daisy are racing the General Lee across the world in a contest to earn enough money to pay off the mortgage for Uncle Jesse’s farm so Boss Hogg doesn’t foreclose.  However, Rosco and Boss Hogg are also racing the international competition to win the prize money.  This episode takes place on a leg of the race across England.  The race ceases for one day, Christmas day, while everyone celebrates the holiday.  However, Boss Hogg’s lack of Christmas spirit shows through when he decides he’s going to continue the race and get a head start on everyone else.

The Dukes have the right Christmas spirit.  They invite their racing rivals Rosco and Boss Hogg to share their Christmas party.

The first boss of Hazzard County, Boss Jake Marley warns J.D. Hogg about learning the lessons of charity, mercy, and kindness--lessons Marley regrets he never learned in life.

On Christmas Eve, Boss Hogg is visited by the ghost of his former mentor Boss Jake Marley who warns about Hogg's lack of holiday spirit.

The Ghost of Christmas Past--southern style.

Later that night, Boss Hogg is visited by three ghosts showing him his Christmases past, present and future.  In the past, Boss Hogg revisits receiving his favorite Christmas present from his mother--his very first piggy bank.  Boss Hogg also re-lives the moment when he chose money over his fiancé, Elsey McCoy, who went on to marry Jesse Duke instead.  Interesting backstory here for Dukes of Hazzard fans.

I like that the young Jefferson D. Hogg (is THAT his real name?!) dresses all in white.

Elsey gives Hogg an ultimatum:  choose either her or his love for money.

The Ghost of Christmas Present shows Boss Hogg how his friend and employee Rosco--and his dog Flash--are spending their Christmas.  Much like Bob Cratchit and his family, Rosco and Flash don't have enough money for a lavish celebration but they enjoy what they do have and still exchange small tokens of their affection for each other.  The Ghost of Christmas Present also lets Boss Hogg look in on the Dukes enjoying their Christmas party with their guests Roscoe and Flash.

The Ghost of Christmas Present--is he the personification of The Balladeer/narrator, voiced in the live-action series by Waylon Jennings? 

Flash and Rosco share a merry Christmas despite their lack of money.  Here the two make the most of cold tea and day-old biscuits.
Next, the Ghost of Christmas Future shows Boss Hogg what may occur if changes aren't made.

The Ghost of Christmas Future.  A fairly traditional-looking Carol ghost--though not very intimidating in a white robe and healthy flesh tone hands.

Boss Hogg is shown a future where his dirty tricks result in Uncle Jesse sharecropping Hogg's property, Bo Duke dressing as a clown to work the parking lot at the Boar's Nest, Luke Duke converting the General Lee to haul garbage, and Daisy scrubbing floors at the Boar's Nest.  Boss Hogg is actually quite happy with this dark vision of the future--until the Ghost shows him his own over-grown, ignored tombstone in the cemetery.  Hogg is saddened to discover that his money can't buy him friends, respect, and appreciation.

Boss Hogg is content with a future where Bo and Luke Duke are humiliated and under his employ.

Boss Hogg is discouraged by learning he can't buy a better future for himself.

Boss Hogg promises to embrace the spirit of Christmas bringing the Dukes gifts and a holiday meal to share at the party.  Of course, viewers have to wonder if Hogg's generous spirit will last--but even the three ghosts knowingly remark "he's only human."

Can you guess which character utters the line "God bless us, one and all"--a re-write of Tiny Tim's observation? (It was Luke Duke!?) 

I'm quite surprised by this cartoon series' attention to detail in adapting A Christmas Carol for children.  Even the live-action series didn't take Dickens quite so seriously.  Another detail that makes this episode special is that this animated children's series is voiced by many of the original live-action series actors.

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Which adaptation was your first introduction to Dickens' A Christmas Carol?  Mine was Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol.  Do you remember watching The Dukes on Saturday mornings?


  1. Yes, I remember watching the Dukes oh so long ago. Was fun for a kid. I didn't pick up on all this backstory, either. Jesse married the lady Boss Hogg ignored? Wow!

    1. I remember watching the animated Laverne & Shirley--even the Partridge Family in Space series and the teenage I Dream of Jeannie Saturday morning cartoons-- but I never watched The Dukes. Go figure.