NEW YORK TIMES
Even reality takes practice, a lesson that has not been learned by many makers and stars of workplace reality shows. They think that a moderately unusual occupation — alligator wrangling, sports-memorabilia hawking, storage-locker rummaging — and a camera are all that is necessary to make a watchable show.
The men and women of “Duck Dynasty,” though, are smarter than that, which is what makes this droll new A&E series a cut above the rest. Before trying the relatively big stage of A&E, home to hits like “Storage Wars,” “Dog the Bounty Hunter” and “Intervention,” they honed their skills in a string of DVDs and on the Outdoor Channel in a show called “Benelli Presents Duck Commander.” Now they’re as good at being television stars as they are at making duck calls: comfortable on camera; clear about who is serving what comedic function; aware that deadpan humor works much better than aggressively trying to be funny. The result is a pretty entertaining show.
“Duck Dynasty” follows the goings-on at Duck Commander, a family business in Louisiana that is built on duck calls first manufactured by Phil Robertson, who now fills the role of odd, somewhat inscrutable patriarch.
“Don’t marry some yuppie girl,” he advises a grandchild in the premiere, which is being broadcast Wednesday night but can already be viewed via A&E’s Web site and other online platforms like Hulu. And, he continues, homely is fine, as long as she has her priorities straight.
“Hard to get a pretty one to cook and carry a Bible anymore,” he says.
The real focus of the show, though, is Phil’s son Willie, who is now president of the company. He has staked out the persona of exasperated chief executive (though, like the other men in this show, he is so hairy that it’s hard to think of him as an executive), a guy who enjoys hunting and fishing as much as his relatives do but knows there’s work to be done.
The premiere opens with him in quite a state because a big duck-call order needs filling, but his workers are out catching catfish and hunting beavers. The most laid-back of the bunch is his brother Jase, who offers this T-shirt-ready philosophy: “If you’re too busy to duck hunt or catch fish, you’re too busy.”
Later in the episode, Jase does turn up at work but quickly becomes distracted by a side project: flooding the loading dock to turn it into a duck pond. Is this kind of stunt manufactured for the cameras? Maybe, but because everyone in the Duck dynasty has a well-defined role and sticks to it, the bit works. So does the show.
A&E, Wednesday night at 10 and 10:30, Eastern and Pacific times; 9 and 9:30, Central time.
Produced for A&E Networks by Gurney Productions. Deirdre Gurney, Scott Gurney and Joe Weinstock, executive producers for Gurney Productions; David McKillop, Elaine Frontain Bryant and Lily Neumeyer, executive producers for A&E.