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This story first appeared in the Jan. 3, 2014, issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
Ask the Robertson family what it is about its A&E reality series, Duck Dynasty, that regularly lures 9 million-plus viewers, and each of the sons has his own explanation. “It’s a combination of the faith, the positive and the family aspect … and it’s funny,” says Willie of the series, which is more Beverly Hillbillies than Keeping Up With the Kardashians. Offers Jase, “We’re just kind of doing what we do, and people identify with that.” Adds Jep, “And it doesn’t hurt that our wives are, like, super, super pretty.”
With the traditional family sitcom a rarity on the networks — and faith something of a dirty word — hungry viewers arrived in droves, making the show about a Louisiana family (including Si, 65; Phil, 67; and Phil’s sons Willie, 41, Jase, 44, and Jep, 35) with a multimillion-dollar duck-call business the year’s No. 1 unscripted show on cable and the No. 2 show on cable overall (behind AMC’s The Walking Dead). A Dec. 11 Christmas special drew 8.9 million. The Robertsons — a visual departure from the gloss regularly seen on TV thanks to their hats, bandannas and signature beards — have capitalized on that growing popularity: They released four New York Times best-selling books, dropped a Christmas album (Duck the Halls), which debuted at No. 4 on the Billboard 200 chart, and inked deals for more than 1,200 products, including action figures, board games and greeting cards.
Next, rival execs will look to cash in on Duck — developed during Bob DeBitetto‘s tenure atop A&E — with Dynasty knockoffs, an outcome that doesn’t seem to bother the Robertsons. “If they try to emulate [the positive nature and the faith base], I think that’s good,” says Willie, with Jase echoing, “If everyone wants to do good, clean television, I think that’s what we need.”
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