For those of you who suggested that I watch this show, this is my opportunity to apologize for poo-pooing the idea for this long, and your chance to say “I told you so”. I finally tuned in after I received an email from a friend who told me that I would laugh out loud watching some rednecks hunt dove with the assistance of a Standard Poodle, and chow down on mallow dogs. How could I resist a teaser like that? It turned out to be some of the funniest television I’d ever seen and the best scripted reality program to make the airwaves.
“Duck Dynasty”, for those of the very few of you who haven’t seen it, is loosely based on the lives of the Robertson family of Monroe, Louisiana. Almost the entire family works, in some capacity, for the “Duck Commander” duck call business, started by Phil Robertson in 1971. In the forty years that it’s been in existence, “Duck Commander” has become the standard for duck calls and has turned the Robertsons into millionaires. Aside from the mansions they own, you wouldn’t even know that they had the kind of wealth they do. The men favor camo-wear and sport beards a la ZZ Top. In fact, the theme song for the show is “Sharp Dressed Man”.
What makes this show fun is the fact that all of them are in on the joke. They play the role of backwoods’ rednecks with pure genius, sharing a few winks with the cameras and the viewers, and enjoying themselves while they’re at it. They proudly refer to themselves as rednecks and play up the stereotype for all it’s worth. The truth of the matter is, most of them are well-educated, highly sophisticated, accomplished and successful businessmen. Maybe that’s why this is such enjoyable television – we’re in on the joke and they’re more than happy to play along.
There’s a lot to be learned from watching the Robertsons – some of it is hysterical and some of it comes from seeing a family interact in a way we wish all reality stars would. During my recent marathon sessions of “Duck Dynasty”, the family provided some lessons about life, both in the woods and practically anywhere else. Si Robertson, Phil’s younger brother, is especially good at offering up some pearls of wisdom, in his own way and full of malaprops. A recent episode, entitled “Duck Season Eve” involved a poorly planned and even more poorly executed camping trip in anticipation of the first day of duck season. Si happened to be resting next to a hollowed out log while being devoured by mosquitoes when he spotted a snake. He grabbed his revolver and fired about a dozen rounds into the fallen tree. Whether he hit anything or not is still undetermined but it gave him an opportunity to share some of his rules for dealing with such situations. They are as follows:
Rule #1 – Always bring plenty of bug spray.
Rule #1 – Always carry a pistol.
Rule #1 – Always have your buddy’s back.
Rule #1 – After you eat, lay down and digest.
And, when you drop the entire platter of hot dogs before you get them on the fire,
Rule #1 – Never drop your weenie.
No, those aren’t typos. They’re all Rule #1. Now, about those mallow dogs. When the hot dogs were rendered inedible, Jase and Jep, Phil’s sons, went to Plan B for their dinner menu. They toasted marshmallows and ate them on hot dog buns. Willie, Phil’s third son, and some of the others, chose to spend the night inside the company RV, and ate and slept in comfort. According to Jase in his talking head, RVs aren’t camping – they’re for Girl Scouts and even that’s insulting to Girl Scouts.
There are some other things that they’ve some up with that could come in handy for just about anybody. When the air conditioning is on the fritz and you need to cool down, just put a tarp in the bed of your pickup truck, fill it with water and “Voila!”, you have a cool pool. I have a pickup and a few tarps and I might just try it when the temperatures soar into the 100’s this Summer. If I do it right, I could probably drive around with it that way – in case I want to pull over and cool off somewhere. If your monitor lizard happens to escape, just find four or five burly men with beards, coat the floor with flour and track the little devil down before he kills someone. When you fear that water parks may be rife with germs and stuff, you can always build your own at the local pond. Necessity is, after all, the mother of invention.
As I mentioned, Si is the master at screwing up the English language – on purpose, I suspect, but it makes for some great quotes. Just take a trip to the roadside snowcone stand, and Si will tell you that the pain you feel in your head from eating one is a “brain sneeze”. Even when he was corrected, he defended his comment in a talking head, explaining that because your brain is a brain it can’t sneeze, so it hurts. Got it? Makes sense to me. Si is also more than happy, happy, happy to explain the meaning of “hey”. In his words, it goes like this, “Hey can mean anything. It can mean yes, it can mean maybe, it could mean no, it could mean next week. Hey, the bottom line is you have to understand me to understand hey.” So if you can understand Si, you can understand “hey”. Good luck with that. He also carries a plastic cup around in his back pocket wherever he goes. His mother sent it to him when he was serving in Vietnam and he treasures that cup like nobody’s business.
Getting back to that dove hunting poodle. The premise of this storyline was that Si needed a new hunting dog and, with the help of his Phil’s wife, Miss Kay, he chose a Standard Poodle. Of course this was completely staged, but it didn’t make it any less funny. The dog that appeared on the show is a champion hunting dog, Cooper, who holds all sorts of titles for his breed and his work. He was borrowed from the Louters of Georgia, who raise and train their Poodles for hunting and Cooper has become a legend, with all the top Master Hunter titles for Poodles in every venue including AKC, UKC, NAHRA, UGA, & PCA. Here’s a clip featuring Cooper and Si in the marsh.
This isn’t just about the Robertson men, though. Their wives play much more than supporting roles in all of this and bring some of their own humor and common sense into the mix. Miss Kay, who I mentioned earlier, has been married to Phil for 47 years, since she was 16 years old. When she’s not setting her husband, brother-in-law and sons straight, you’ll find her in the kitchen making some of the family’s favorite dishes, including variations of squirrel stew, gravy and biscuits, with her legendary banana pudding for dessert. She’s a big fan of squirrel brains because they make you smart. I’ll have to take her word for it. The sons are married, too, and each of their wives are amazingly adept at playing the part of straight man for their respective husband’s hijinks. Korie is married to Willie, the company’s CEO. Missy is Jase’s wife and Jessica is married to Jep. Si has a wife but she doesn’t appear on camera. We’ve also seen the eight grandchildren, and each and every one of them is smart, funny and respectful of their parents and grandparents.
I could probably gush on and on about them and, trust me, I’d love to but you really should take a look at the show for yourself. In terms of fans and viewers, I’m a latecomer. “Duck Dynasty” is getting rave reviews and ratings that would make any network jump for joy. On average, for this, the 3rd Season, the numbers are around 8.3 million viewers – an increase of 132% since Season One. The show is mentioned on Facebook more often than even “Game of Thrones”, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg in terms of popularity. A book, The Duck Commander Family: How Faith, Family, and Ducks Built a Dynasty by Willie Robertson and Korie Robertson, is #76 on Amazon’s top 100 sellers and another book, written by Phil, Happy, Happy, Happy: My Life and Legacy as the Duck Commander is at #68 and it isn’t even due for release until May 7th of this year. You can also find Duck Dynasty calendars, shirts, hats, and a cooking video starring Miss Kay.
At the end of each episode, the entire family sits down for dinner and someone offers a blessing over the meal. I think I like that part the best. It’s something you don’t see very often anymore, and you certainly won’t see it on any other reality show. The Robertsons gave an interview on ABC’s Nightline a while ago and this is a bit of what was aired and what Willie had to say about the television experience.
However, the family says the bigger message they portray on “Duck Dynasty” is that they are a brood that stays together and enjoys each other’s company.
“I’ve seen enough train wrecks on TV, on these shows. It will be nice to see a family that sits down and has a meal together,” Willie said.
“In the end, it’s all about love, family and putting family first,” Korie added.
Hey, now we’re cookin’ with peanut oil. It sure sounds like they’ve seen the stuff on Bravo and learned what not to do.
So I have to thank a few people, including my husband and a member of the peerage, who splits her time between her own dynasties in Virginia and the OBX, for sending me to A&E and telling me about the Robertson family. My DVR runneth over with ducks and the bearded men who hunt them.