This review contains spoilers.
"Money to Burn" is another fun, likable first season episode – but then, just about all first season episodes fit that mould!
Either way, it is interesting for several points – it is the first time we see Boss Hogg's bank (which would feature in many future stories), the first appearance of Rick Hurst as Boss's cousin Cletus (he would later become Deputy), and at the very beginning of the story, using the footage of a Sheriff's car (which this episode shows to be driven by Enos) chasing the General Lee in circles around a patch of trees, which would be used behind the closing credits on all subsequent seasons of the show (as well as being used as stock footage in a couple of episodes). Boss's coffin works, seen in this episode, would occasionally appear again too. And although there has been vague elements of it in previous stories, this is the first episode were Boss sets out to deliberately frame the Duke boys to allow his scheme to work.
The plot itself is not one of the first season's most notable, but it's all good fun, and like all good 'Dukes', has a definite charm to it. By now, the template for what would make up so many episodes of the series is really setting in place, but whether that be a plus or a minus point (maybe a little of both), one can't help but admire the sheer "warmth".
One of the interesting things about these episodes, as I come to review them, some of which I haven't watched right through for some years, is how my memory of them and current rating of them is changing. For example, "Luke's Love Story", which for some years I had down as possibly my least favourite of the first season, currently (after reviewing it recently) ranks as one of my favourite! Vice versa, "Money to Burn"... well, it's still a nice episode, but in my memory I had this one clocked up at maybe a 9 or 9.5; it definitely has it's moments, but at the same time maybe this one isn't quite as sharp as I remembered it to be.
...That's not to say it's a bad episode, not at all. It just has feel of a sillier, "scattergun" plot. For one thing, the mid-section, where Bo and Luke creep around Boss's coffin works, feels to be rather drawn out, and my interest did start to waver a little around this point. Thankfully, things pick up for a more interesting climax. Although, at the end, Boss loses the money he's desperately trying to keep, down to sheer mistake / coincidence (his fictional person's coffin with all the money, is mixed up with that of someone with an almost identical name, sending the coffin with all the money in off to be cremated), it's still very amusing, and by this point, Sorrell Booke has got a real comedic handle on his most famous role.
Story-wise, and indeed – bar a few very minor points – production-wise, this episode could just have easily come from just about any season of the show. It would be the type of story that would go on to be redone and reworked in the series a *lot* in various guises, particularly the framing-Bo-and-Luke element – but this was the first season, where it was all new, and fresh, and fun.
As covered in some of my previous episode reviews (see "One Armed Bandits", "Daisy's Song" and "Repo Men"), $ky One here in the U.K. ran the first 60 produced episodes of the series on Saturday afternoons in 1992-3; I didn't have $ky, but discovered by chance that we picked up stray, leaky signal from my neighbour's cable TV! Of the 60 episodes shown, this was only one of two that I didn't manage to record (the other being the third season's "Enos Strate to the Top"). The Saturday it was shown fell on Boxing Day (26th December) 1992, a day we traditionally spent at my grandparents. So I rigged up my usual set-up to record the episode, complete with aerial amplifier on a timer switch, but the darned amplifier didn't turn on, resulting in just getting an hour of snow (and not the kind you'd want at Christmas, either)! A couple of years later $ky re-ran the episodes on weekday afternoons, but with about 8 minutes of story chopped out to fit the time slot, and soon after that, my "unofficial" access to the channel disappeared. So it wasn't until the DVD releases years later that I finally got a complete copy of this story.
One thing I did notice, watching this episode on DVD to review, is that about 3/4 of the way through, the picture quality suddenly switched, into a much more "washed out"-looking old film copy. I presume the master that was used for most of this episode might have been damaged, and so an older, weaker copy had to be used for this patch of the story, before the sharper picture returned towards the end of the episode. To be fair, after some of the ropey (and sometimes edited down) off-air copies of episodes I had to make do with for many years, this didn't really bother me too much, as it is still perfectly watchable.
Anyway, in all... "Money to Burn" is a nice 'Dukes' episode, and one that is hard not to warm to in some way or other, but at the same time, on hindsight, it isn't really one of the sharpest of the first season. I still give it a reasonable 8.5 for its many nice moments, but it's not up in the 9s or 10s as so much of the first season is, in my view. Great fun none-the-less.