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Everything's ducky with the Robertsons

The 'Duck Dynasty' clan, already well off from the family hunting supply business, appears to be handling the massive popularity of its A&E show with a level-headed grace.

March 09, 2013|By Greg Braxton, Los Angeles Times

"Duck Dynasty" star Jase Robertson was scanning the lunch menu when something caught his eye.

"Look, they have duck!" the bushy-faced Robertson announced to his family members sitting near him, including his wife, Missy, and his brother Willie, his "boss" and chief executive of Duck Commander, the thriving Louisiana bayou company and family-run duck-call manufacturers. Pausing a moment, he said, "I think I'll pass. They probably don't make it like they do at home."


FOR THE RECORD:
"Duck Dynasty": A March 10 article about the Robertson family, the stars of the cable show "Duck Dynasty" on A&E, said that family patriarch Phil Robertson played quarterback ahead of football star Terry Bradshaw at Louisiana State University. Both played for Louisiana Tech University. Also, the middle name of A&E senior vice president of nonfiction and alternative programming Elaine Frontain Bryant was misspelled Fountain. —

Minutes later, the Robertsons bowed their heads as Phil, the patriarch of the family, his formidable thick white beard touching the table, delivered grace for their afternoon meal.

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The scene looked like the ending of each episode of A&E's "Duck Dynasty." But instead of being home, the family was in Beverly Hills — in the middle of a crowded restaurant in the Beverly Wilshire hotel, occupying a table near movie directors, businessmen and sharply dressed shoppers. It was a brief break on a whirlwind tour to promote the third-season premiere of its hit show.

But it's that familiar gathering around the dinner table that is a key element behind the massive popularity of the series, which showcases the family at work, home and in the bayou, where they hunt and commune in the backwoods. The show has become the biggest hit in A&E's history.

"When we first agreed to do this, we made it clear that showing us at the end of each episode being together as a family eating dinner was a must. It reminds us where we came from," said Willie Robertson.

Elements of the show's appeal are their distinctive appearance — the beards are the clear costars of the series — and obvious affection and chemistry among the family members, who are distinctive yet familiar. There's Phil, who played quarterback ahead of football star Terry Bradshaw at Louisiana State University in the 1960s but turned down an offer from the NFL because it interfered with duck season; his wife, Miss Kay, who married Phil when she was 16 and is frequently seen in the kitchen whipping up tasty meals; son Willie, who runs the business but frequently has trouble keeping a tight rein on his more laid-back employees, including Jase; and Si, Phil's brother, who serves as the family philosopher/storyteller with tall tales that often stretch time and believability.

Verne Gay of Newsday called the family "so TV-savvy, so glib, so effortlessly funny at the exact right moment that you wonder how much of the show is 'real' and how much is canned.'"

Executive producer Deirdre Gurney developed the show with her husband and fellow executive producer Scott Gurney (their credits include "Auction Hunters," "American Digger" and "How Sharks Hunt"), who was familiar with the family's fame in the hunting world. The tone at first was more straightforward. "It's only when we developed it as a true comedy that we knew we really had something."

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Jase's wife, Missy, said there was initial skepticism about getting involved in a reality show "because we thought they would want conflict, and that's not us at all." The family is fervently religious and donates generously to charities and numerous causes.

"Duck Dynasty" is structured and edited like a family situation comedy, with sitcom-like story lines — the teenage daughter learning how to drive, Willie trying to lose weight to fit into his jacket for his high school reunion — with music and pacing that emphasize the good-natured contentiousness between the family members. "They are all very funny people," said Gurney. "So we work out finessing that balance in post-production."

Success and fame appear not to have not changed the Robertsons, mainly because they were already rich and well known before the show began.

"The beautiful thing is they already had money and a fan base, so they do not need things," said Elaine Fountain Bryant, senior vice president of non-fiction and alternative programming for A&E. "They're grounded people. There's a realness which is a testament to who they are." The network is contemplating possible spinoffs and other related projects

Said Miss Kay: "I told God that if we get ugly with all of this, take it all away. Don't let this change this family from who we are."

greg.braxton@latimes.com

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