A&E’s Duck Dynasty continued its ratings downhill slide. The docu-drama opened its sixth season Wednesday with a 1.8 rating in adults 18-49 and 4.6 million total viewers. That was down 45% in the demo and 46% among viewers from the January Season 5 debut. They were the show’s lowest numbers since the fall of 2012. It was, however, still enough to top everything else on cable last night by a wide margin. Duck Dynasty peaked in its fourth season last August, which opened with a 5.0 demo rating and 11.8 million viewers overall, the largest audience ever for a cable reality series. Was it the controversy surrounding star Phil Robertson‘s comments about homosexuality in December or a normal trajectory for a docu-series after half a dozen years? Regardless, its ratings have been sliding ever since that controversy blew up.
EXCLUSIVE: Coming off a three-season starring turn on the ABC comedy Suburgatory, Jeremy Sisto is returning to his drama roots with a lead role opposite Mark Pellegrino and Kevin Alejandro in Carlton Cuse’s 10-episode A&E drama series The Returned. An adaptation of the acclaimed French series, Returned, from A+E Studios and FremantleMedia, focuses on a small town that is turned upside down when several local people who have been long presumed dead suddenly reappear, bringing with them both positive and detrimental consequences. Sisto plays Peter, a psychologist who runs a grief support group for people in the town who are struggling with the loss of loved ones from a bus accident four years ago. Law & Order alum Sisto, repped by Gersh and the Schiff Co., will segue to Returned after wrapping Fox International’s genre movie The Other Side Of The Door. He recently co-wrote, produced and starred in the indie Break Point, which premiered at SXSW.
Just in time for Duck Dynasty’s sixth-season debut, the media discovered a new sermon, delivered by Phil more than a month ago at his Whites Ferry Road Church, in which he says gays railed against him for “giving them the truth” about homosexuality in his GQ interview last December that earned him a brief but highly visible suspension by A&E Network. No lengthy investigative reporting was required — the church posted the video to YouTube (watch it below). The news breaks just a few days after a report that Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal visited the Robertson family’s duck-call business — back in February — to present the family with his first ever (and, some cynics say, Created-For-TV) Governor’s Award for Entrepreneurial Excellence, and that it was all caught on camera and will be used for the Duck Dynasty Season 6 debut June 11.
During this recent Easter sermon, Phil reminisced about his December interview in GQ magazine, in which he likened homosexuality to bestiality. “They were mad at me,” he told church-goers. “You say, ‘Why’d they get mad at you?’ Cause, instead of acknowledging their sin, like you had better do, they railed against me for giving them the truth about their sins. Don’t deceive yourselves.”
And, then he added, “The news media didn’t even know it was a verse!… They thought I was just mouthing off. ‘Is homosexual behavior a sin?’ the [GQ interview] guy asked me. I said, ‘Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Don’t be deceived.’ ”
Netflix has set August 1 for the premiere of the six-episode final installment of The Killing, and A&E has slotted Monday, June 2 (10 PM) for the third-season premiere of Longmire. The Killing stars Mireille Enos and Joel Kinnaman will return for the final chapter of the series, which was cancelled by AMC in 2012, then resurrected with a third-season order. It staged yet another comeback after being canceled by the network again in September. It was then picked up by Netflix for the final installment. Longmire, A&E’s No. 1 original drama series of all time in total viewers, will return for Season 3 with star Robert Taylor as Walt Longmire, along with Katee Sackhoff, Lou Diamond Phillips, Bailey Chase, Cassidy Freeman and Adam Bartley.
A&E Network has given the green light to unscripted series D.O.A. (working title) from Law & Order executive producer Dick Wolf and Left/Right Productions. The series follows an elite team of detectives who will re-examine controversial murder cases in which unresolved questions linger long after the verdict. Production begins this spring on eight hour-long episodes. The team includes Chicago homicide detective Michelle Wood, Miami PD detective Joe Schillaci, and retired NYPD detective and supervisor and Kevin “Spider” Gannon. The three will begin their investigation at a reconstructed crime scene and work the case interviewing first-person players and forensic specialists. The question is whether they agree with the original verdict or if the wrong person is behind bars. This marks the latest reality play for Wolf, who has also cracked the reality space with TNT hit Cold Justice, which wrapped its second season last month. The network in February ordered six more episodes to air this summer. Wolf’s Law & Order: SVU, the longest-running drama series currently on TV, is now in its 15th season.
The Herbert Brothers (working title) follows five brothers who launched an advertising empire after creating the No. 1 Super Bowl commercial. A&E Network has ordered the new nonfiction series from Zig Zag Productions. Production is underway on eight half-hour episodes with the series slated to premiere this summer on A&E. The Herbert Brothers made advertising history when their homemade commercial won the “Doritos Crash the Super Bowl” contest and ranked No. 1 on the USA Today ad meter. The brothers took their $1,000,000 winnings, established an advertising agency in their hometown of Batesville, IN and continued developing commercials for major companies like Pepsi, Go Daddy and Shasta. Matt Gould, Danny Fenton and Mark Efman are executive producing for Zig Zag Productions. Lily Neumeyer is exec producer for A&E Network.
A&E Network has promoted Mark Apter to the post of SVP Program Planning & Acquisitions, where he will lead the network’s scheduling team. The 15-year A&E veteran, based in NY, had been VP Scheduling & Acquisitions since 2010 and helped orchestrate the rollout of network hits like Duck Dynasty and Bates Motel. In his new role he’ll be tasked with developing and implementing the network’s programming, scheduling and acquisition strategies including on digital platforms like VOD. He reports to A&E EVP and GM David McKillop.
A&E Network has elevated Drew Tappon to the post of SVP Development & Programming, from his current position as VP Non-Fiction & Alternative Programming. David McKillop, EVP & General Manager, A&E, announced the appointment today. Tappon will be responsible for the development and production of A&E’s nonfiction, alternative and reality series and will report to McKillop. He is based in A&E’s New York City headquarters. “Drew is a talented and well-respected executive who has brought enormous energy and experience to A&E’s unscripted programming team,” said McKillop. “I am certain that he will continue to reinforce A&E’s standing as a leader in providing premium content and contribute to the growth of the network.”
EXCLUSIVE: A&E Network has put in development a high-concept drama from Immortals writers Charley & Vlas Parlapanides and producer Michael London. The project’s title, The 36, stems from the mystical Jewish concept of the Righteous 36, which stipulates that at all times there are 36 people in the world possessing special powers who don’t necessarily know each other but if even one of them was missing, the world would come to an end. A version of the premise was recently used on the Fox supernatural drama Touch where such 36 people were hunted by a shady organization. The 36 is set in the world of the biblical fallen angels. These dark angels, or Nephilim, live among us and are only kept in check by The Righteous 36. Set in New York, The 36 centers on Dane, a complicated hero who soon learns that he’s right in the middle of this battle for the soul of mankind. The Parlapanides are writing the script and will executive produce with London through his Groundswell Prods. for A+E Studios.
The 36 joins another project about angels on Earth, Syfy’s series Dominion, based on the feature Legion. Groundswell recently produced the Amazon comedy series Betas and is also producing ABC’s straight-to-series drama The Astronaut Wives Club. Additionally, the company is developing a series adaptation of Jennifer Egan’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel A …
Breaking Boston will premiere Thursday, March 13 at 10 PM on A&E Network, which already is home to producer Mark Wahlberg‘s family restaurant series Wahlburgers. The new docu-drama will center on four working-class women coming of age in hardscrabble Boston and was inspired by the tough, hard-as-nails female characters in Wahlberg‘s Oscar-nominated movie The Fighter. A&E ordered the pilot in November 2012 and picked up the series last May. “These are real women telling their original stories of trying to break out of what’s expected of them,” said Wahlberg who himself was raised in Boston and just earned his high school diploma at age 42. “The odds are difficult, but I believe they can make it.” The series is from 44 Blue Prods, Wahlberg’s Closest to the Hole Prods, Leverage Entertainment and Bill Thompson Prods. Wahlberg, Stephen Levison and Thompson are executive producers. Executive producers for 44 Blue are Stephanie Drachkovich and Jennifer Colbert. Lily Neumeyer and Devon Graham are exec producing for the network.
Former VH1 executive Shelly Tatro has joined A&E Network of SVP Development & Programming. Based in New York, she will oversee the development and production of A&E’s nonfiction, alternative and reality series, reporting to EVP and general manager David McKillop. “Shelly has a great reputation for having her finger on the pulse of the industry,” McKillop said. Tatro joined VH1 in 1996 as Director of Series & Specials, and served as SVP Production & Programming from 2003 until October 2013 when she exited the network. At VH1, Tatro oversaw development and production for such shows as Mob Wives, Love And Hip Hop, Hogan Knows Best, I Want To Work For Diddy and Black Ink Crew. Tatro and her team also launched the I Love the 70s, 80s, 90s and 00s franchise and Rock Docs. Additionally, Tatro developed Jersey Shore before it premiered on sister channel MTV and developed and produced the pilot for another project that migrated to MTV, A Shot At Love With Tila Tequila. Before joining VH1, she was a freelance producer in New York and also was part of the launch team for Barry Diller’s home shopping network Q2.
Roy Garber, star of A&E Network‘s popular reality series Shipping Wars, has died of a heart attack in Texas. He was 49. Shipping Wars has been a staple on A&E since its January 2012 debut; the show’s fifth season finished its 12-episode run this week. It is unclear how Garber’s death will affect the reality series’ future.“We are deeply saddened by the loss of a member of the A&E family,” the network said in a statement tonight. “Our thoughts are with Roy’s loved ones during this difficult time. He will be missed.”
UPDATED: Facing a firestorm of criticism that has shown little signs of subsiding, A&E parent company A+E Networks just issued a statement (read it below) announcing that the flagship A&E reality series Duck Dynasty will resume filming in the spring with the entire Robertson family — including patriarch Phil Robertson. The company put him on an “indefinite hiatus” on December 18 following the controversial comments he made in an interview to GQ. Duck Dynasty had been on a scheduled hiatus when the bombshell comments were made public. It had been slated to resume production in the spring, so today’s decision, which A+E said was made “after discussions with the Robertson family, as well as consulting with numerous advocacy groups,” reverts to the show’s original filming schedule. The groups whose cooperation A+E sought are said to include GLAAD, which blasted Robertson’s initial anti-gay comments, and NAACP.
Duck Dynasty has nine of the 10 episodes for the upcoming fifth season with Phil in the can. It will film the final 10th episode before proceeding with production on the following cycle. In its statement today, A+E referred to the December 19 statement by the Robertson family in which they admitted that “some of Phil’s unfiltered comments to the reporter were coarse, his beliefs are grounded in the teachings of the Bible” but stressed that “Phil would never incite or encourage hate.” In the same statement, the family stood firmly behind their patriarch, indicating they would rather walk away from the show then film without Phil.
The stakes in the stand-off were high, with both A&E and the Robertsons poised to lose tens and possibly hundreds of millions of dollars, though the family had already amassed a fortune, emboldening them to make a stand. Since the controversy erupted, Phil Robertson has been defiant, reiterating his stance on gay relationships at a Bible study group. He has drawn massive support from conservatives, both politicians and regular folk, with a petition asking for his reinstatement amassing more than 250,000 signatures as of this morning. Cracker Barrel’s attempt to pull some items carrying the Phil Robertson brand Duck Commander created such strong backlash that the stores quickly restocked the items. The controversy pitted religious believes vs. tolerance and equality. It exposed the deep divisions in the country, and A+E said it wants to come out of it “promoting unity, tolerance and acceptance among all people” with a campaign across all of its networks that the company hopes the Robertsons will be part of. The brouhaha further raised awareness for Duck Dynasty, already a monster hit, some two weeks before its fifth-season premiere, which would likely shatter more ratings records. Here’s A+E’s statement:
As a global media content company, A+E Networks’ core values are centered around creativity, inclusion and mutual respect. We believe it is a privilege for our brands to be invited into people’s home and we operate with a strong sense of integrity and deep commitment to these principals.
UPDATE, 8 AM: After hitting its goal of 200,000 signatures on its petition calling for A&E Network to immediately reinstate Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Robertson in just a few days, the organization that calls itself Faith Driven Consumers set a new goal of 250,000. Which it hit the night after Christmas. Christmas, not coincidentally is the day the extremely press-savvy Phil decided to illustrate one of his comments to GQ and a subsequent church group meeting that “If you’re a man, find yourself a woman. Marry them and keep your sex right there…Common sense says we are not going to procreate the human race unless we have a man and a woman. From the beginning Jesus said, ‘It is a man and a woman.’” In a photo tweeted Christmas Day by his granddaughter, Phil is seen pointing to an apparently new wedding ring on the finger of his wife, Miss Kay, with the caption: “After 50 years of marriage Papaw Phil finally gave Mamaw Kay a wedding ring for Christmas ??”
A&E Network yanked the star of its reality hit over comments he made about homosexuality in the January edition of GQ, specifically his having compared homosexuality to bestiality. The petition demands A&E cease its “discriminatory censorship of Mr. Robertson and to treat people of faith with equality, fairness, and true tolerance.”
Remember the good ratings for David Blaine’s ABC magic special a couple of weeks ago that we felt would spur more magic programs? A&E Network picked up Don’t Trust Andrew Mayne, a new unscripted series featuring magician Andrew Mayne. The series, which will premiere January 13 at 10 PM with back-to-back episodes, has Mayne performing illusions designed to help people get even by teaching a lesson to those who’ve wronged them. Mayne employs anything from explosions to disappearing cars and slight-of-hand, with one large illusion and five smaller illusions per episode. They include cars “melting away”, iPhones winding up in a “pickle” and someone’s precious motorcycle getting shot out of the sky. Don’t Trust Andrew Mayne is produced by Joke Prods., with Joke Fincioen, Biagio Messina, Mayne and Mary Jaras exec producing.
EXCLUSIVE: A&E Network’s upcoming drama Those Who Kill doesn’t debut until March, but this weekend there’ll be sneak peek shown during the network’s two-part Bonnie & Clyde miniseries. Why wait until then to see Chloë Sevigny as police detective Catherine Jensen in the series from Imagine TV and Fox 21. Here’s the clip: