The first thing you notice after watching a few episodes of Duck Dynasty on the A&E Channel is that the show has very little to do with ducks.
The Robertson family and a couple of employees manufacture hand-crafted duck calls in their shop in West Monroe, La., and although the show has a decided outdoors backdrop, few of the hilarious hijinks involve actual duck hunting.
Instead, the appeal is the cast of colorful characters and the zany situations in which they find themselves.
The show, winding up its third season, is scripted but still funny. It appeals to a wide audience – over 8 million viewers turn in every week, making Duck Dynasty one of the most successful programs on cable TV.
Phil Robertson is the patriarch. The ZZ Top look-alike is a former Louisiana Tech football star who beat out Terry Bradshaw for the starting quarterback job. Phil, a professional duck hunting guide, began making commercial duck calls 25 years ago.
Phil’s son Willie serves as the CEO of the family’s duck-call business, which has ballooned from a backyard enterprise into a million-dollar industry. Willie is often the fall-guy for jokes and punch lines.
Joining the cast of wacky characters are Willie’s brothers Jase and Jep, their wives and kids, a couple of employees and a slow-talking neighbor nicknamed Mountain Man – a native of Portland, Tenn.
The star of the show is Phil’s brother Si, a self-anointed war hero who knows just enough about any and every subject to be dangerous.
The popularity of the show and its characters was evidenced when Si, Phil and wife Kay made an appearance at Lipscomb University. It immediately sold out. A second was scheduled. It also quickly sold out. A third show was added, and it too ran out of tickets.
Some of the Duck Dynasty cast appeared in a Darius Rucker video, part of which was shot in Hartsville. The Robertsons were a hit with the crowd.
My hunting buddy Barry Stricklin used to co-host an outdoors radio show in Nashville. Phil, Willie and Jase were in town for an outdoors convention and agreed to come to the studio one morning as guests. Barry said they were as natural and down-to-earth in person as they appear on TV.
After the show Barry offered to take them to breakfast at any restaurant they wanted. They chose a nearby Waffle House.
Part of the show’s charm is how unchanged the Robertsons are despite their new-found wealth. As self-described “Louisiana rednecks” they still like to hunt, fish and catch crawdads in the swamps. In one humorous episode they were apprehended catching bullfrogs in a fancy golf course pond.
They’re funny and fun-loving, and even though the episodes are scripted they just doing what comes naturally. They make you smile and sometimes they make you laugh out loud, and it’s all good clean fun.
The Duck Dynasty gang is the sort that you’d like to spend a day with in the outdoors. It leaves you with a good feeling. Each show ends with the entire family gathered around the supper table, heads bowed, while Phil says grace. It’s a peaceful ending to a rollicking show.
We could use more TV programming – and more families – like that.