"Duck Dynasty" is the latest hit for A & E, and it's a rather amusing little series. The show follows the Robertson family, who started a business over 20 years ago when Phil Robertson started making duck calls out of Louisiana cedar trees. Years later, the duck call business has since exploded, and turned the family into millionaires. I'm waiting for the episode where the family rings the bell at the NYSE with a legion of ducks waddling around the trading floor.
Yet ... they all still dress like a backwoods ZZ Top. The charm of the series and what makes it fairly engaging TV is that you have this ordinary, hardworking family who haven't changed their ways in the slightest despite their success, and often spend time trying to figure out how to stay ahead of a business that continues to be more successful than they could have imagined.
Former quarterback Phil remains in the picture, but son Willie has taken over the CEO role and has to corral the rest of the family, who spends their time mixing work and play (largely, hunting, although in a way that is R & D work in this instance.)
I'm a little curious how long the concept can be drawn out, but the series does really have one good concept and tries to mine as much as it can: how does a normal, hardworking family manage to keep it together while responding to the demands of a business that is growing at a rate that it becomes almost difficult to stay ahead of it. The other aspect of the series that I continue to enjoy are the more sincere moments - while the majority of the series is goofy, occasionally there's a heartfelt moment or lesson that feels genuine. The series always ends with the family around dinner and an overview of what lessons were learned during the episode (sort of like MTV's "Run's House".)
What's interesting about the series is how much it picked up steam throughout the first few seasons, going from an average of around 2M viewers during the first season to an average of around 9M during the fourth. While the series has cooled off since - possibly simply due to the freshness wearing off, possibly in part due to some controversy around the series at times in the last couple of year - it still draws a respectable flock.
The other issue with the series that may be a part of why ratings have slipped a bit is that it feels forced at times. The core idea: a small business sees insane growth and popularity from exposure in a wildly popular reality show - is good enough. I'd love to see an episode or two that was serious and entirely devoted to running the business. There's the "On the Menu" TV show on TBS where chefs try to make a new menu item for a popular chain restaurant, "Shark Tank" has become hugely popular - I can imagine a series on the Outdoor Network where "Duck Dynasty" cast members team up with Cabela's or Dick's Sporting Goods to try and come up with the next big outdoors brand or invention.
Whether or not one can call this a sitcom or reality show may have been a little debatable at first, but as the series goes on it starts to feel noticeably more "sitcom-y" as it strains to create situations for the characters, such as Season 4's "Going Si-ral", where Si becomes obsessed with Youtube and creates an amusing video that goes - unfortunately - viral.
Some of the highlights within this box set include: season 4's "Till Duck Do Us Part" (Phil and Miss Kay renew their vows), Season 5's "From Duck Till Dawn" (Willie joins the crew for an all-night packing session), Season 5's "Willie's Number Two" (Korie hires cousin John David as Willie's personal assistant, which other workers at the company don't take well to), Season 6's "Governor's Travels" (the Governor comes for a visit, which throws everything into chaos) and the 6th's season's "Men Vs Wild", where Si suggests a race: it's Jep and Alan against Willie and Jase through the woods.
Overall, "Duck Dynasty" still proves moderately entertaining, even if the series is starting to appear to strain a little bit more noticeably to come up with situations for the cast.
• Season 4
42 4-01 14/Aug/13 Till Duck Do Us Part (60 min)
43 4-02 21/Aug/13 So You Think You Can Date?
44 4-03 28/Aug/13 Hot Tub Grime Machine
45 4-04 04/Sep/13 A-Jase-ent Living
46 4-05 11/Sep/13 Termite Be a Problem
47 4-06 18/Sep/13 John Luke After Dentist
48 4-07 02/Oct/13 Scoot Along Si
49 4-08 09/Oct/13 Jerky Boys
50 4-09 16/Oct/13 Going Si-ral
51 4-10 23/Oct/13 Quack O'Lanterns
54 4-13 22/Jan/14 Life of Si
• Season 5
52 5-01 15/Jan/14 Boomerang Becca
53 5-02 15/Jan/14 Willie's Number Two
54 5-03 22/Jan/14 Life of Si
55 5-04 29/Jan/14 From Duck 'til Dawn
56 5-05 05/Feb/14 Burger Commander
57 5-06 19/Feb/14 G.I. Si
58 5-07 26/Feb/14 Jase and the Argonauts
59 5-08 05/Mar/14 Fowl Playhouse
60 5-09 19/Mar/14 THE BIG LeCOWski
61 5-10 26/Mar/14 Stand By Mia (60 min)
• Season 6
62 6-01 11/Jun/14 Governor's Travels
63 6-02 18/Jun/14 Quack and Gown
63 6-03 25/Jun/14 Hands on a Woodchipper
64 6-04 02/Jul/14 Quackdraft
65 6-05 09/Jul/14 Brand of Brothers
66 6-06 16/Jul/14 De-Bug Life
67 6-07 30/Jul/14 Men vs. Wild
68 6-08 06/Aug/14 Return of the Beavers
69 6-09 13/Aug/14 Lake Boss (60 min)
VIDEO: A & E presents the series in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. While there's some minor edge enhancement and a few little traces of artifacting, the picture generally appeared crisp and detailed, showing off the fine details of the outdoor scenes well. Overall, a fine transfer of the material.
SOUND: Crisp, clean Dolby Stereo presentation, with well-recorded dialogue.
EXTRAS: A beard (yay....) The "Duck the Halls" special DVD is also included, which is a nice bonus for the upcoming holidays. We also get trailers, the new "Robertson Family Values" featurette and "Willie's Guide to Being a CEO" featurette. Maybe I'm crazy and maybe this idea wouldn't go over so well, but I'm surprised that a network hasn't created a "club" that would be a mobile app (and maybe online accessible, as well) where viewers would pay a minimal amount per month and have access to all sorts of "DVD-like" extras, as well as members-only previews for new shows and on-set footage for upcoming seasons (and all manner of other things.) It would serve as a "paid fan club" that would reward fans, as well as promote new shows. Maybe if you bought a set like this one, you'd get a code for perhaps 3 months free. So, I buy the "Duck Dynasty" DVD, try the app for free and maybe I find that I like a couple of other shows on A & E that I didn't know about.
Final Thoughts: "Duck Dynasty"starts to run out of steam a little after six seasons, but even the lesser episodes are still mildly entertaining. The DVD set provides fine audio/video, as well as a decent handful of extras. Recommended for fans.