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The Reality Show You've Never Watched Just Beat "American Idol" in the Ratings

By Dustin Rowles | Trade News | March 1, 2013 | Comments ()


Duck Dynasty  560 .jpg

Have you ever heard of A&E's "Duck Dynasty"? If not, no worries. It's probably not the typical television fare your average Boardwalk Empire/Mad Men/Game of Thrones/The Walking Dead viewer would watch. It's reality show about a family of hayseed duck hunters who invented a duck caller that made them all very, very rich, so it's something akin to a reality version of The Beverly Hillbillies, except instead of moving to Hollywood, they kept their wealth in Louisiana, where they mix Southern living with luxury cars.

The show is huge. It's been growing over the first two seasons, but this week, the third season premiere blasted everything out of the water, ratings-wise. In addition to being the most watched reality show of the entire year, in the 18-49 demo, it beat everything on Wednesday night, including "American Idol" and "Modern Family" (as the Times noted, it also beat everything that's aired on NBC for the last two months).

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.

the-robertson-boys-without-beards.jpg


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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not


  • Jim Slemaker

    Is there anyone anywhere who doesn't realize "realty tv" is anything but? My 80 year old mom knows THE BATCHELOR is completely concocted and she doesn't care. What the heck is the difference anyway? You love your finely written characters in MAD MEN (which I find a complete bore), I love me some Holmes and Watson in SHERLOCK, and apparently millions of people love the bearded, former yuppies of DUCK DYNASTY. It's a great big TV world out there!

  • Cody McKee

    Glad (and, frankly, surprised) to see this show getting so much love in the comments. My parents love it, I have seen a good chunk of the episodes (don't watch it regularly), and I am more than familiar with the Duck Commander brand. I can also attest that, while I've never had it with dove (as Jase recommended), duck breast with a jalapeno slice and a dollop of cream cheese, wrapped in bacon, marinated in a mustard/bbq sauce mix and broiled or grilled is FAN-FREAKING-TASTIC.

  • e jerry powell

    (...it also beat everything that’s aired on NBC for the last two months put together).

    FTFY.
    [/Lina Lamont]

  • You give me life.

  • e jerry powell

    And I cann't stan'im.

  • e jerry powell

    Oh, and:
    How exactly is A&E/History Channel scripted reality different from truTV scripted reality, which has been going on at least as long?

    (Okay, to be fair, most truTV scripted reality is more akin to "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" or most Comedy Central live-action sitcoms than anything else.)

  • Bodhi

    I love that damn show & I don't care who knows it. For better or for mostly worse, I miss living in the South

  • Clancys_Daddy

    It's a duck call not caller. I will also toss in that at two full episodes I have watched more episodes of Duck Dynasty than I have full episodes of American Idol or any of the other over hyped crap you've mentioned combined, with the exception of Walking Dead, which I gave a shot. It's just too fucking stupid.

  • Danar the Barbarian

    I'd never heard of it until 3 days ago, when Morrissey announced he was canceling his appearance on Jimmy Kimmel because the Duck Dynasty guys were going to be on. Don't worry, Dear Moz, I am on your side. Not because meat is murder, but because fake scripted reality red necks give me heartburn.

  • Duck Dynasty: The Movie, starring Zack Galifianakis, Dusty Hill from ZZ Top, Gimli and Bearded Ben Affleck, coming to you in 2014!

  • Robert

    Double Divas has cue cards for the talking head interviews pretty clearly but everything else is standard reality TV prodding. The non-stars are no more wooden than on a show like Oddities or Billy the Exterminator.

  • Bodhi

    Oh God I love that show too. I miss the hell out of my native coastal SC & those Georgia accents sound like heaven to me.

  • Slash

    You know, I'm OK with this. I'll take hairy, fake rednecks over shrieking, worthless trophy wives or Kardashians any day of the week.

  • Kballs

    Did you know the guy on the left in the header pic (patriarch Phil Robertson) started ahead of Terry Bradshaw at Louisana Tech University back in the '60s? He was drafted by the NFL after his junior year but turned it down saying, "it interfered with duck season, and he was not
    interested in having "large, violent… men chasing me trying to stomp me
    in the dirt."

    Like I said: awesome.

  • Kballs

    This show is awesome. You talked before about the mindlessness of Modern Family as light fare in the face of all the amazing, mindblowing dramas out there. Duck Dynasty is exactly that. I don't care if it's completely fabricated and it makes my wife happy because it reminds her of her grandparents (Cajuns from Louisiana) who she loved more than live itself.

  • Pinky McLadybits

    I love Duck Dynasty. LOVE IT. It also reminds me of my family. I've helped my Pepaw skin a turkey, shot guns, bows and arrows, helped keep animals, etc. Si cracks my shit up, Jack. So I will keep watching. I think that some of the personalities are genuine because I'm related to people just like them.

  • ,

    You left out the actual number of viewers: 8.6 million.

    Usually I would do my "X million out of 310 million ain't shit, that means 300 million people don't care" shtick here, but ... damn, 8.6 million is a LOT for a cable show, isn't it?

    Good insights about "reality" shows too.

  • SCG

    This show leaves me with tears streaming down my face from the laughing. I have never heard my husband laugh so much or so hard. These people are truly loveable and family friendly - not the typical reality bs drama, even if it is highly scripted. I am not ashamed to say I love it completely and happily watch the repeats b/c they make me laugh as hard as they did the first time. Willie and Jase are smoking hot once they grow on you and Uncle Si is the best crazy uncle anyone could ask for.

  • lilianna28

    I share your love.

  • Sherry

    Being from the South and now living "up North," I love the show--scripted as it obviously is--for giving us self-proclaimed rednecks who are extremely articulate, genuinely funny, and fairly charming. They defy stereotype and I applaud them at least for that. For the record, I am also a huge GoT fan (books then show), and I will continue to willingly drink the Robertson family KoolAid.

  • Jensicola

    OH MY GOD THAT PICTURE BLEW MY MIND. I have watched the show a couple of times and find it amusing and relatively harmless, and am not surprised so many folks tune in each week. However, I never realized they went THAT far for the show! I don't know if this disappoints me or makes me laugh even harder.

    FYI, we knew the boys were hot under their beards but GODDAMN! Goddamn.

  • What?!

    Pictures similar to that have been shown on the show, they don't try to hide the fact they used to be clean shaven and normal looking. That's a fact, jack!

  • NateMan

    While I will continue to not watch this, I'm pretty sure it was their calls that allowed me to shoot a couple Canada Geese in the face this winter, so I appreciate them for that.

  • Bert_McGurt

    Have you tried it in a slow cooker with a nice little ketchup/Worchestershire/vinegar/hot sauce medley? Pretty decent. We've been cooking a lot of wild meat (moose, deer, elk, goose) that way the last little while with great success.

  • NateMan

    I haven't tried them that way, but that's a great idea. I like 'em seared like a steak myself, as described below.

  • Bert_McGurt

    Throw the soy sauce, brown sugar, and scallions in too. I can't imagine that would hurt.

  • ViciousTrollop

    Mean! Canada Geese are pretty much Canada's unofficial national bird. They may be vicious, smelly and the reason that Sully had to land his plane on the Hudson but apparently we love them.

  • Vi

    Yeah you guys, stop picking on Canada's air force!

  • Uriah_Creep

    They're our air force right now, but our defense minister Peter MacKay has promised us a new fleet of sleek American Eagles to replace them. And it will only cost us $45 billion!

  • NateMan

    I think they're pretty much the US's national bird too, by how many live here. Also, you left out delicious in your description.

    Edit: I hope it was a vegetarian\vegan that downvoted that comment. Otherwise that's just funny.

  • ViciousTrollop

    People eat them? I seriously had no idea.

    They do migrate south for the winter so they're like old people who winter in Florida.

  • NateMan

    Oh yes. You skin out the breasts and cook them just like you would a steak, searing them on the outside and leaving them rare to medium-rare. They taste a lot like strong beef with just a hint of gaminess. I like to marinate them in soy sauce, brown sugar, and scallions first.

    Dammit. I'm getting hungry now. Think I need to thaw out a couple of the breasts and throw them on the grill this weekend.

  • ViciousTrollop

    No need to thank me for fattening them up for you. I spent my whole childhood feeding them breadcrumbs by the lake.

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