The news rocketing across social media and transcending the realms of the cyberspace are that Phil Robertson, the inventor of Duck Commander, and the patriarch on the television show Duck Dynasty has been suspended indefinitely by A&E television from appearing on the show. The reason given for the suspension involves “controversial statements about homosexuality” in an interview with GQ Magazine.
I watch Duck Dynasty and for me those 30 minutes provide good entertainment. For the most part, I try to watch at least a couple of episodes of any television show with a Louisiana connection whether the link is fictional setting or so named reality TV. Some lost my viewership following that “second chance episode,” and others retained my viewership to varying degrees. The formula is not new to me. Friends and I often went to nearby Hammond to watch the filming of scenes from the initial season of In the Heat of the Night. On quite a few occasions, Carroll O’Connor would take the time to speak with us. In my age range, All In the Family was a show we knew from syndication reruns and not during its network airings but was still a classic even if we were not aware of many of the groundbreaking topics approached during the show’s heyday. Still, Archie Bunker turned Chief Gillespie was an easily approachable “TV star” willing to engage with fans. A buddy asked about how he prepared to play different characters, and the actor began speaking with an Archie Bunker accent and every few words seamlessly transitioned into another accent before ultimately concluding after perhaps 20 or so speaking voices with the southern police chief and lastly Carroll O’Connor.
When filming left the Hammond area following the first season, I lost interest in the show. In recent times, I stopped watching the cancelled Edwin Edwards show rather quickly. While I am not a fan of Steven Seagal, I did watch more episodes of that series to see some of the destruction left by Hurricane Katrina in Jefferson Parish. I had been in the store a few times long before Cajun Pawn went on television. While I’m not familiar with recent politics down in Terrebonne Parish and never met or had any interactions with Vernon Bourgeois and felt the Rougarou was so sensationalized that it became corny, I enjoyed Cajun Justice. I also enjoy Billy the Exterminator and certainly prefer the Louisiana based episodes versus those in other parts of the country.
Duck Dynasty is probably my favorite of the reality genre.
I do not read GQ magazine and have not read the interview in question so I cannot comment in reference to what was printed and what was not. Agree or disagree, Phil Robertson has the right to his opinions just as you or I have the right to ours. They are no better or worse than yours or mine simply because he is on TV, or he played QB up in Ruston, Bradshaw was his backup at Tech, he invented a duck call, he began and grew a business, he grew a beard, or whatever. If you read some of the things the man has said before, he readily admits to behavior of which he is not proud or “happy, happy, happy.” His sons and their families have dark aspects in both their past and present lives as well. It may be “reality” TV, but it is still a television show that takes hours upon hours of footage, cuts and splices it together, and then has that episode aired.
As to the suspension, I’m not familiar with his contract with A&E just as I doubt anyone reading this piece would be. I do know that earlier media reports related contract negations for one the seasons with the family members requesting more per episode which they apparently received since the show is still on the air. The request of a higher salary or a larger percentage cannot be unique.
How many reality TV shows end abruptly? I would hate to audit the books in Terrebonne Parish before, during, and after the season of Cajun Justice. I wrote about Steven Seagal some time ago when those issues resurfaced in another fashion.
How many TV shows change filming locations because of financial issues or problems caused by a member of the cast? With In the Heat of the Night, Carroll O’Connor interacted with the spectators, but many members of the cast seemed to feel superior to the fans.
How many times has a main character been replaced or “killed off” in a series?
I have not read what Phil Robertson said. Whether I agree or disagree, in my opinion he has the right to his own opinion.
The timing and the uproar do seem very convenient. How many people remember back to just this summer? It was in July that I read:
“Duck Dynasty’s” esteemed patriarch may soon be ready to hang up his hunting whistle for good. In a new interview with Parade magazine, Duck Commander founder Phil Robertson hints that he’ll likely leave the A&E hit reality show in the not-too-distant future. Asked how much longer he plans to be involved, the bearded, camo-wearing duck hunter replies, “Not long.” But that doesn’t mean the series will end. “I think it’ll go on without me,” he muses.
The complete take on series and the “timing” of this indefinite suspension can be found here in this 27 July 2013 feature in Parade Magazine.
I think the television show will continue and enjoy greater viewership and profits from the publicity received from this “indefinite suspension.”
I will still watch the show. Whether I will still be entertained for those 30 minutes and continue watching has less to do with anything Phil Robertson, Ms. Kay, Willie, Uncle Si, Jase, Jep, Korie, Missy, Jessica, Martin, Johnny Godwin, “Mountain man,” or any of the kids of the kids or grandkids happen to say while not on the air than it does on the direction of the show as a whole.
If my memory is correct, a previous Dynasty famous for the catfights between characters played by Linda Evans and Joan Collins reached a zenith with a cliffhanger that threatened the continuation of every major character. Unlike its rival Dallas with the Ewing family on a competing network, Dynasty had more “hard to believe” storylines with the Carringtons and others. That cliffhanger from 1985 saw terrorists in a military coup of Moldavia leave everyone lying lifeless at the wedding of Amanda and Prince Michael. The following season revealed, however, that the only causalities were the boyfriend of Blake’s son Steven, and Ali MacGraw who had been Jeff’s love interest Lady Ashley.
Alexis, or Joan Collins, was nowhere to be found in the season opener. Apparently the actress had a contract dispute which was settled by the second episode. If it had not been settled, I reckon the casualty list would have increased by one.
Regardless, Dynasty lost its number 1 rating that season as the sensationalism could not be maintained.
For A&E and Duck Dynasty will this really non-story to have Phil Robertson no longer a featured character on the show as it appears he intended earlier on his own terms pay off? In the short term it will with increased revenue, but I think the long term will depend upon content and not controversy.
My viewership depends upon what happens inside that rectangular box in my home. The people on the show are just actors to me. Even if someone is playing themselves, there is still a difference between the person in front of the audience and the one behind the stage. The inner self may be constant, but the projection and the perception you or I have from our perspective will be different.
I might be incorrect, but I think Phil Robertson has fulfilled his desire to get away from the camera and A&E now has a “scandal” merely to boost publicity. It’s a gambit which I believe has more to do with a man’s desire to lead a less public life without hurting his family along with a business wanting to maximize profit potential than any of the free speech or religious issues permeating throughout various media sources.
What’s saddest for me is that many of the people and media sources only shout free speech when that speech is in agreement with their beliefs. As my Grandfather might have remarked, “Them quacks sure are a quackin’ right now. Something must be happening that they don’t want you to see.”