Hollywood’s Wake-Up Call Might Sound Like a Duck

Posted on December 28, 2013

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Yesterday, TV execs announced that Phil Robertson has been reinstated in the hit A&E show Duck Dynasty. The patriarch of the beloved redneck family was suspended on December 18 after controversial remarks about homosexuality he made in an interview with GQ magazine were published.

The public’s outpouring of support for Phil — and his family’s insinuation that they would not continue the show without him — led to some quick backtracking by the network. A&E shared a statement with The Hollywood Reporter on Friday:

We at A+E Networks expressed our disappointment with [Phil’s] statements in the article and reiterate that they are not views we hold.

But Duck Dynasty is not a show about one man’s views. It resonates with a large audience because it is a show about family … a family that America has come to love. As you might have seen in many episodes, they come together to reflect and pray for unity, tolerance and forgiveness. These are three values that we at A+E Networks also feel strongly about.

So after discussions with the Robertson family, as well as consulting with numerous advocacy groups, A&E has decided to resume filming Duck Dynasty later this spring with the entire Robertson family.

So the network is eating crow — and not because they believe they were in error, but because they are unwilling to butcher the cash cow. The Robertson family may choose their personal beliefs over profit, but A&E is not quite so committed.

Because of the runaway success of the Robertsons’ show and America’s overwhelmingly vocal support for its patriarch, Hollywood may be forced to take a second look rural America. The numbers don’t lie. As the infamous GQ article stated, this year’s hailed finale of the hit drama Breaking Bad garnered just under 12 million viewers. Phil and his clan pull in more than 14 million viewers every week. This year, the show’s season premiere had more viewers than any other non-fiction TV show premiere in history.

Initially, A&E may have expected the Robertsons to be received as nothing more than a joke. They thought America would tune in to laugh at the quirky family that struck it rich with a duck-call business, chortling at their beliefs and beards and general backwoodsy-ness. But instead, Duck Dynasty became a phenomenon beyond anything the producers could have foreseen. A close friend told Mail Online:

‘It is our understanding that when the TV executives came up with the concept for the show they wanted it to be a case of people laughing at a bunch of backward rednecks.

‘But when it didn’t turn out like that and people actually started identifying with the way the family behaved and were laughing with them, not at them, they became uncomfortable. It did not sit will with the New York TV types.  

For the first time in years, here is a show that millions of us can identify with: a rural family who loves each other, prays together, eats together, hunts and fishes together, and even goes to church together. We don’t relate to the Beverly Hills nannies and The Situation and the other “real people” on reality TV — but we feel pretty sure that we would get along with the Robertsons. Sure, they are more ridiculous and extreme than us — they wouldn’t have a show otherwise — but as their friend said, we are laughing with them and not at them.

This is a formula the entertainment industry may want to pay attention to. Small town families have been woefully misrepresented in TV and film for decades. We are typically depicted as either recluses or ignoramuses or freaks. Hollywood is painfully out-of-touch with rural Americans, but — thanks to the duck that laid the golden egg — we may become harder to ignore.

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Posted in: Entertainment