The A&E hit Duck Dynasty has taken the airwaves by storm since its March premiere, entertaining audiences with the wild goings-on of the Robertson family as they run their Louisiana duck call company. Beginning its second season Wednesday night, even the wonks at the New York Times are starting to take interest. And it’s hard not to– the show finished up its first season as the most-watched non-sports cable TV show of the night with 2.6 million viewers.
(Read our special coverage of the show’s popularity here.)
In an article that ran over the weekend, the New York Times’ Neil Genzlinger writes (emphasis added):
They are busting the image of what might collectively be called backwoods TV, the ever-growing list of reality shows about wrangling alligators and catfish and wild hogs. Where most of those shows are one-note and aggressively low brow, “Duck Dynasty” has a varied cast of characters who fit together seamlessly, and any idiocy is deliberate. Sure, making an impromptu duck pond in the warehouse loading dock, as some of the guys did in a Season 1 episode, might not have been the most productive use of time, but it was pretty funny. And the show always leaves you unclear whether the whole extended family is just pulling your leg.
“Duck Dynasty” is loosely centered on the Duck Commander business, which is headed by Willie Robertson, 39, the third of Phil and Kay’s four sons. Very little duck-call making actually takes place in any given episode. Instead the focus is likely to be some harebrained project instigated by Willie’s older brother Jase, or Phil’s obsession with ridding his land of beavers, or Kay’s determination to open a restaurant, or Uncle Si’s efforts to give driving pointers to a young member of the clan, or some similar bit of frivolousness. Willie, the only man with obvious business acumen, is forever exasperated by his inability to get Jase and the rest of the Duck Commander staff to stop goofing off, although he too has been known to shirk certain duties… [Emphasis added]
And while that might sound a little condescending, the article continues:
The show has gotten better as it has found its natural voice, which in large part has meant letting members of the Robertson family be themselves. David McKillop, A&E’s executive vice president for programming, said the first step was realizing that the clan deserved more than a simple hunting show, which is how the series was originally pitched.
“When we looked deeper into the story, what we found here was a very unusual family,” Mr. McKillop said. “Why waste it as a hunting show when in reality this was a great family show?”
Then came a process of learning to just turn on the cameras and let the Robertsons go.
“When we first met with the production company,” recalled Korie, Willie’s wife, “they had an intern give us kind of a script they had written that was going to look like our show, and it was just so not us. It was like, the wives get up and go chase the varmints; it was just total redneck. That is not us. That’s not the way we live.” [Emphasis added]
Here is a promotional video for the premiere, titled “Work Hard, Nap Hard”:
Genzlinger goes on to describe “everyone” in the family as “smart and equipped with a keen sense of how to mine a sort of self-deprecating wisdom from the redneck caricature.” And Willie Robertson apparently coined a phrase to describe their situation: “guided reality.” Though the show’s executives may suggest an idea, what happens next is character-driven.
The Robertson’s lives have all changed since the show began, the New York Times adds, though it’s not likely change the quality of the show. For example, the eldest son — Alan — has given up his clean-shaven look and his pastoral duties at a local church to help run the business.
But the main difference: instead of being mistaken for the homeless and having people try to give them money, Willie says people are now starting to ask, “Can I touch your beard?”
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