The Reality Show You've Never Watched Just Beat "American Idol" in the Ratings
Given the huge ratings of the show, I actually sat down and watched the season three premiere last night. Obviously, I'm not the target audience (in fact, by the end of the episode I'd fallen asleep), but I was mostly stunned at how completely scripted the show is. It's a "reality" show in only the loosest sense: They are real people, who really live in Louisiana, and who really own a duck-calling business. Otherwise, it was fairly obvious from the multi-camera angles, the obviously written jokes, and the contrived situations that there was very little separating Duck Dynasty from most sitcoms, save for a laugh track.
I don't want to completely dismiss the show as the next coming of Charlie Sheen or anything because The Robertson family has some down-home authentic charm, and I could see why people from my hometown in the South, say, might appreciate being represented on television. The "characters" also have some talent; they read their lines very well. They're also very game about playing up their own stereotypes, for better or worse.
Given the number of pieces I've seen over the last year or so about the fabrication of reality television, from "Storage Wars" to "Breaking Amish" to "Joe Schmo" -- which is designed to be a fake reality competition -- it's clear that reality programming is a fiction, but I think as long as we understand that, it's relatively harmless as a concept, although the exaggeration of certain stereotypes is obviously harmful from a certain cultural perspective.
In 2013, reality television is just people playing versions of themselves, and while "Duck Dynasty" may be one of the more egregious examples (although I understand that in the show, "Double Divas," it's obvious the reality participants are reading from cue cards), it's nothing new. I'm sure there is some angle I could take that would allow me to work up some outrage, but it would be as feigned as the reality in these shows. "Duck Dynasty" is a dumb show, not because it's scripted reality, but because it's dumb. You only have to see the Robertson family, pre-beard, to understand how completely fabricated the show is.