So I sucked it up and finally watched a few full episodes of the hit series based on the real-life Robertson clan of West Monroe, La. Family patriarch Phil Robertson invented and patented a duck call that launched the Duck Commander/Buck Commander business. As CEO, son Willie turned the company into a multimillion-dollar sporting goods empire and keeps his also prodigiously-bearded brothers and uncle in line.
The one-hour premiere (9 p.m. Aug. 14, A&E; 2.5 out of 4 stars) begins at the mansion of Willie and his wife, Korie. Willie is fighting a losing game of Battleship with his "other brother" Jep when Korie and Jessica, Jep's wife, badger the boys about what to get Phil and Miss Kay for their 49th anniversary. When Willie tries to stop any talk of anniversary presents by telling the women that his parents never had a real wedding, Korie turns the tables on him, saying, "We should give them a wedding. ... Good idea babe."
"That's the worst idea I've ever heard in my life," he says, protesting when she says the idea was his. "That's not what I said."
Hooked like the fish he catches, Willie can only complain as Korie, Jessica and Missy, brother Jase's wife, reel the men into the plan. The brothers, their friends and a few employees are stuck executing it while their oddball Uncle Si distracts Phil and Miss Kay. The episode also introduces eldest Robertson son Alan, a minister who takes no amount of grief from his brothers for not sporting a beard. (Alan and his wife, Lisa, join the cast this season.)
I couldn't help but laugh. The show is edited almost like a sitcom to draw out maximum humor, with cutaway interviews of cast members at just the right moments to reinforce their folksy philosophies. One could complain about the gender stereotypes at play, but the roles are so exaggerated here it seems the show and the Robertsons are mocking those biases.
At any rate, it's nice to see a reality show that isn't filled with backstabbing and familial dysfunction. Yet I can't avoid feeling like all the good-ol'-boy cheeriness is at least partly phony, especially knowing that the new season was held up when the Robertsons held out for more money.
As self-aware as "Duck Dynasty" is, maybe that negotiation will find its way into the plot. But I doubt it.
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