25 Million Dollar Sheriff

Dukes of Hazzard fans may remember an episode called “10 Million Dollar Sheriff” where Rosco inherits money by mistake. Here in the real world, James Best, who played Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane, is saying there’s been a mistake, alright, and Warner Bros. made it.

A lawsuit filed by Best against TimeWarner states that he has been shorted his share of royalties from Dukes of Hazzard merchandise. Specifically, merchandise that bears his likeness. Best was entitled to 5% of these proceeds. (is that 50% of 50% of 50%?) The dispute arises from the lack of accounting by Warner Bros; Best has received $175,000 in the past 30 years from merchandise sales – but he reckons he should have received 5 to 25 million.

Doing the math roughly, Warner is saying it made 3.5 million from Dukes merchandise with Best’s likeness – while Best is saying they probably made more like…a billion.

Best’s claim also includes a share of merchandise revenue from any Dukes product with Flash on it. Adding the dog to the show was his idea and he held 50% ownership of the pooch.

We took a quick look at what we could find with Sheriff Rosco’s likeness, and came up with the following: packaging for Mego action figures, back cover cases for Columbia House VHS tapes, the front artwork for The Dukes of Hazzard music CD, and DVD box back covers for Seasons 1, 2, 3, and 7. There were also a number of metal TV trays, wastebaskets, and…heck, we can’t count all the stuff Warner Bros authorized back in the day with Rosco on it.

But Warner Bros is going to have to count it, and disclose it, to settle this lawsuit. Best claims he made numerous efforts over the years to obtain fair accounting, without success.

Tom Wopat and John Schneider sued Warner Bros over merchandising revenue during the 5th season of the show. The dispute resulted in a temporary walkout by the two actors and the introduction of temporary replacement stars, Byron Cherry and Christopher Mayer. It was eventually resolved to Wopat and Schneider’s satisfaction, and the replacements were given the heave-ho without fanfare.

We will keep you posted as this story continues. Who knows…maybe ol’ Rosco will get his “pension” here, after all! And what a pension it could be.

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