Yes, this might be the title for any number of Dukes of Hazzard episodes or even a title for a darkly fun B movie reboot of the show. In real life, James Best, the actor who played the goofy sheriff in the original TV show Dukes of Hazzard is suing Warner Bros. for millions of dollars in unpaid royalties. Best, known for his character that was quite inept, seems to be less inept at keeping track of what he is owed. In a North Carolina federal court, the actor filed a complaint last week aimed to expose some wrongdoings by Warner Bros. in regards to how much money he should have been paid since the show went came on the air. The Sheriff cited examples of contract stipulations that suggested he should have received more money from merchandise sales that contained his character, and money from anything related to his character from the movie made in 2005 starring Johnny Knoxville and Sean William Scott.
Best claims his original contract with Warners would entitle him to 5% of revenue from merchandise that featured his identity, and 2.5 % of any revenue from merchandise with other cast members involved. Small margins for sure, but no doubt would have added up over time. It’s no question that the show continues to have a following, and merchandise from the show continues to popular. With very recognizable logos, and a very recognizable car that has been purchased for kids and adult fans alike in model form since the show went on the air in 1979.
The main issue is not really that Warners is not honoring the contract stipulations, it’s more about how much money they are claiming to have brought in for total revenue from the show. Recently in 2009, Warners sent a financial summary suggesting that the total revenue from products associated with Roscoe P. Coltrane only added up to less than $10 million. Best says that this number is in direct conflict with a report that came out claiming the show brought in $190 million per year during the first six years it aired. All math equations aside, I’d imagine that his character was involved in more than $10 million dollars worth of that total if that was just over the first six years, and of course, if that report was correct.
This is yet another issue where it’s going to come down to numbers at first, then it’s going to come down to what the studio considers sales associated with his character versus sales associated with just the show. I hope Roscoe P. Coltrane gets what he’s owed, but not any more than that.