Duck Dynasty: Top Ten Reasons the A&E Show Is Popular

Duck Dynasty: Top Ten Reasons the A&E Show Is Popular August 23, 2013

If you haven’t heard by now of Duck Dynasty, the hit reality show on A & E, you may not be all your quacked up to be.

Sorry. Couldn’t resist. Just put it on my bill.

According to the AP (via Huffington Post), A & E says nearly 12 million people watched the premiere of season four last Wednesday, making the episode the number 1 non-fiction series telecast in cable history in total viewers as well as all key demographic groups. Check out the A & E site here for the next show on Wednesday nights at 10 Eastern.

Even if you’ve never seen an episode, you’ve probably seen the merchandising. Everything from outdoor wear to eyeglasses to underwear seems to have the Duck Commander logo emblazoned on it these days. Of particular interest to readers here is the Robertsons’ unabashed discussion of their Evangelical Christian faith, its impact on their family trajectory, and on the gospel of Jesus Christ as their ultimate motivation. See Phil and Kay talk about it here:

Even Phil Robertson’s latest book Happy, Happy, Happy: My Life and Legacy as the Duck Commander has topped the NY Times bestseller list. (Full of practical wisdom and faith it, unfortunately,(IMHO) fails to capture Phil’s unique voice.) His son Willie’s first book offering The Duck Commander Family: How Faith, Family, and Ducks Built a Dynasty also put the focus squarely on faith and family as the primary reasons for their success.

But what makes the show so popular? Why all the fuss over a bunch of “trashy rednecks” (as one Twitter critic called them) blowing a bunch of money on various (mis)adventures in the Louisiana bayou?

Like most cultural phenomenons — think The Beatles — this one’s likely too big for any of us to fully explain. But as a Christian father of six kids and writer with a business and ministry background, I’ll give it a shot — buckshot, that is. (It gets worse. And that’s a fact, Jack!)

Top Ten Reasons Duck Dynasty is Popular

  •  Funny. Sometimes, it’s downright laugh-so-hard-you-fall-off-the-couch-hilarious. But only if you can laugh at yourself. If you take yourself too seriously, Duck Dynasty might not work for you. Elitism and duck calls don’t seem to go well together. But in a world full of terrorism, crushing national debt, and other serious stuff, Duck Dynasty gives us all a chance to laugh at reality —  and, vicariously, at ourselves through the Robertsons. Yes, ultimately I think we see ourselves behind their beards or fancy dresses. Or both in Si’s case.
  • Exceptionally well produced. Usually stuff like editing and production wouldn’t get noticed, but with Duck Dynasty, I think it’s the difference between so-so and Wow! The production value is simply superb. The editing of camera shots alone produces almost half the laughs as cameras cut from commentary, to action, to a simple look that says more than any line ever could. If you don’t believe me, pick up a copy of the Season Three DVD and watch the deleted scenes raw footage. It’s just not the same.
  • Family. The classic saying, “The family that prays together, stays together” has never been more evident than with the Robertsons. Where else on TV can you see a multi-generational family staying together, enjoying one another’s company in spite of each member’s imperfections? In a society in which the family is disintegrating and fathers are often AWOL, the Robertsons model something very different with Phil and Kay’s marriage still going strong after 48 years.
  • Prayer. And while we’re on the topic, perhaps the most significant impact Duck Dynasty will ultimately have on our culture is the typical final fifteen seconds of every show spent in prayer over a meal. In short, they’re making it cool once again for families to eat together and pray together. It has been awhile (maybe back to Mayberry?) since popular television celebrated such things.
  • Faith. Duck Dynasty is giving people of faith a chance to be part of something cool. Let’s face it, a lot — but not nearly all — of their support is no doubt coming from people of faith and Evangelical Christians in particular. But the Robertson’s are not in-your-face about their faith on the show. In fact, they seem like real people (as evidenced from the occasional bleeps and their straight talk about sex) living out their faith as imperfect people in an imperfect world. They don’t claim to have it all figured out. Kind of like it should be for all of us followers of Christ. And being set in the South where faith is still normal certainly helps.
  • Authentic. I know it seems strange to describe a reality TV show as authentic. I don’t mean that some of the stuff isn’t planned. The total lack of any camera equipment in any shot — ever — proves there’s some intentional staging going on. By authentic I mean that the audience detects an authenticity to the characters. They are who they are, both on and off camera. When you watch, you get the sense that Si would be just as zany, Phil just as taciturn, and Willie and Jase just as competitive if you stopped by their place for a mess of crawfish one day. And Kay’s cookin’? Who wouldn’t want a sample of that? Being real is not something we as a culture are very good at, hence the appeal when we find people comfortable with who they are.
  • Refreshingly blunt. In our PC world of hate crime laws and thought police, there’s something cathartic about hearing the Roberstons push back on all the nonsense. I’m thinking of their willingness to go off the marked trails in Hawaii, their criticism of the mandatory HR training — when Willie and Si end up handcuffed together — or when Phil shoots a squirrel during the doggie portrait session and describes it as the best “organic” dog treat.
  • Guns. Don’t underestimate the cultural push-back on this issue. As calls for gun control increase by our cultural elite, the Robertsons represent the majority of Americans who believe that gun control means shooting with two hands. Duck Dynasty portrays a safe haven where guns are the norm and no one is weird for thinking they might actually need to use them. My favorite Philogism on the topic? “Where I live, I am 911.”
  • Capitalism. I wouldn’t describe the Robertson’s as flag-waving Americans, but their patriotism is ever-present and their love of country unmistakable — after faith and family. The thing that will ultimately earn them the most critics is that they are a shining example of American capitalism at work. It’s only a matter of time before some prominent progressive describes them as having “behaved stupidly” — and the Robertsons take it as a compliment! The Robertsons are proof that anyone — yes, even “trashy rednecks” — can achieve financial success through hard work (OK, maybe that one is debatable), creativity, a superior product, and a little camo and sweet tea. Truth be told maybe some of us are watching because we have ATV envy.
  • Human nature. Let’s face it, when most of us watch Duck Dynasty, we see them doing stuff we wish we had the guts to do — walk out of work to go fishing, duck tape younger brothers to warehouse poles, spend $2,000 at a kids pizza place all day — well, maybe that’s just me. The point is ( I feel a Willie narration coming on) we all have stuff we’d like to say or do, but can’t find the courage to say or do. For the Robertsons, courage doesn’t seem to be the problem. Stupidity, maybe. But not the courage to take risks and see what happens. It’s their family, faith, and community that provides the margin to make mistakes, forgive, and live to catch frogs another day — usually with only a bruised ego to show for it.

What do you think of this top ten list for why Duck Dynasty is popular? What would you add? Leave a comment below with your own reasons for liking — or not liking — the show.

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  • Jim Work

    Won’t you Please, Please me, and do not put these “trashy rednecks” anywhere near the same level as the Beatles. People like this crap for the same reason they buy lottery tickets. They want to believe “it” can happen to them.

    • Lynell Franklin

      Too bad you just don’t “get it”. Not even sure what you mean by your remark of comparing people watching this show to lottery tickets…”it can happen to them”.

    • joames

      These ‘Trashy Rednecks’ all have University Degrees, Phil has a Master’s degree – which is far more than any of the Beatles drop-outs have.

      Granted – the Beatles are the Beatles.

      • Good point. Now we’re back to that whole “how real is reality tv” question.

  • C_Before_E

    Too bad nobody could correct or copy edit this article, which is laughably full of errors. Guess proofreading is for PC elitists…

  • rvs

    I have seen a few of these, and I have enjoyed the scenes of prayer around the dinner table. The refreshing bluntness is also… refreshing. So many Americans have been inundated with bureaucratic double-speak in their day-to-day lives, cubicles, offices, etc.; they are looking for alternatives to it. Maybe there will be a renewed interest in Mark Twain as a result of this show….

  • Jennifer

    True confession time. Until this past weekend I was not all that I was quacked up to be. I had never heard of Duck Dynasty. When I saw the title of this post I thought you were going to be saying something about the Mighty Duck hockey team (A truly Canadian mistake). Please don’t judge too harshly – I grew up in the time when you had to walk to the TV and turn a dial to get the channel you wanted (a total of twelve). I have no idea what channels we currently get out of the gazillion options and, therefore, absolutely no idea what is on TV.

    But… TA DA! – I have learned how to buy complete seasons of television on DVD at the store! And this past weekend my husband and I had the following conversation while browsing for movies:

    Me: Since we don’t have anything to do on Labour Day, why don’t we buy season one of Duck Dynsasty?

    Him: (confused pause as he struggles to interpret my words) … What kind of dynasty?

    Me: DUCK dynasty.

    Him: Ducks? What are you talking about? (Concerned glance out of the corner of his eye)

    Me: It’s a very popular reality TV show. It’s supposed to be good. And funny… Just the thing for recovering from back to school shopping.

    Him: What’s it about? (patiently humouring me in concern for my sanity)

    Me: Some redneck millionaires who make duck calls. They have great family values. (I pass him the DVD box)

    Him: (Looks at the shaggy, bearded guys) You’re joking, right? (Peers closer) Are they for real? You ARE joking… right? (pleading whine – Phil wouldn’t approve)

    We’ve now watched five episodes of season one. Jace hooked me in the first episode when he commented that if someone saw CEO Willie walking down the street they’d expect a cup for a dollar or a sign saying “The End is near!” It was so true! I could clearly picture myself carefully passing Willie on the street and expecting him to ask me for money.

    And then they went hunting for frogs and I found myself thinking that it would be wonderful to have people in my life that would stay up all night catching frogs for my cooking video. Or that would actually know HOW to catch frogs and not get eaten by the ‘gators. And would skin them for me so I wouldn’t throw up. And please, oh please won’t Phil come visit to build us a football field and show my son the value of honest hard labour? He can skip telling my son to be sure to marry a frog loving woman, though – I don’t want any nasty Thanksgiving dinner surprises in my future.

    • Streets_Ahead

      You’re better off watching the Ducks. They’re pretty good this year.

      • Jennifer

        They certainly did well against the Blues.
        Just out of curiosity – and because it seems like you really dislike the show – what aspect of it bugs you (or are there too many to mention)?

    • Elana Golan

      Do you still want Phil to come visit you and be an influence on your son? I’d reconsider. And if you want faith and spirituality and prayer go to church or temple or make that a part of your own life – don’t just watch people practicing it on tv. And catching frogs (or any animals) is disgusting. What right do they have to be killing ducks or frogs or whatever else they kill? And what on earth are you thinking that you want someone who walks around with guns and hunting to be anywhere near you or son?!?! Wake up!

      • Jennifer

        Good morning, Elana,
        I think I was pretty clear that I’d pick and choose what I’d like Phil to teach my son. And I don’t think I stated anywhere that my entire faith was wrapped up in a TV show! I’ve watched a whopping ten episodes or so.
        1) Yes. Despite the fact that Phil and I probably disagree on a great number of issues – including our views on homosexuality and what makes a good supper or wife – I would allow him to interact with my son. My son can’t grow and make his own decisions if he has nothing to decide between. I have faith in him. While I would certainly steer him clear of anyone I consider “evil”, Phil doesn’t come close to triggering my Mother bear instincts and has many good qualities. I want my son to meet and learn from a wide range of humanity.
        2) I’m not vegetarian. I’d rather someone shot an animal dead in the wild than tortured it in a small, cramped cage before bludgeoning it to death.

  • Lynell Franklin

    I grew up with a Dad and brother that went deer and duck hunting during the seasons. I lived in Sacramento, CA at the time and I have many memories of my brother getting our kitchen floor all muddy when he came in with his ducks or pheasants he proudly shot that morning (mom was not fond of the cleaning part, getting all the buckshot out of the bird). My dad went deer or elk hunting every season (usually to Colorado) many years in a row. I saw the animals hanging in our garage as the “men” cut up the meat. It was also the only time I ever saw my dad with a beard, as no one bothered to shave for the two or three weeks they were gone. I love this show for all the reasons you have listed in your top ten. My brother was in Vietnam, so he could be our Uncle Si, as he continues to hunt, fish and do all the outdoors things the Robertson’s do (without the swamps, or the beards) in No. California. He watches the show and is not a believer. I bought the Duck Commander book by Phil for every member in my family who have ever shot a shotgun (most), seen a duck, ate a duck, or even heard of a duck! A great witnessing tool for unbelievers.

  • The Yungs

    The show is not my cup of tea. I squirm when people squabble in front of me in real life and blatantly disregard the rules (going off the path in Hawaii isn’t refreshing to me – it’s entitlement) and I won’t seek it out on tv either. I found your blog searching out why people like the show so much and I still don’t get it – that’s ok tho, I don’t have too. I do take issue with one of your points- the Robertsons represent the majority of Americans who believe that gun control means shooting with two hands. Do you have numbers to support this claim? I hear a lot of talk about it but that doesn’t mean the numbers support it. I’d love to see numbers, and preferably from more than one source. Thanks for explaining this phenomenon to me….

  • Can’t Say

    I did not read the article. I just put the question in ..What kind of people watch Duck Dynasty. I wanted to know if people watch it to make themselves feel more educated. I just don’t understand. Is this like someone watching Honey Boo Boo?

  • Streets_Ahead

    “Duck Dynasty is giving people of faith a chance to be part of something cool.” LOL it’s not cool at all.

  • Streets_Ahead

    This show is NOT cool. Only idiots like this show. I found this article trying to found out why anyone watches this trash. Turns out the answer is because idiots have nothing better to do.

  • Bum Deggy

    “They don’t claim to have it all figured out. Kind of like it should be
    for all of us followers of Christ. And being set in the South where
    faith is still normal certainly helps.”
    That’s some good irony right there.

  • Jack D. Montana

    Another reason: American viewers are stupid and look up to stupid southern white trash role models.