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.
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.’ ”
“Today we require the largest event space in Manhattan,” A+E Networks President and CEO Nancy Dubuc told the crowd tonight at New York’s vast (and packed) Park Avenue Armory on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. “I’m here to tell you that TV is not dead. We are in the next Golden Age of content,” she added, zinging that it’s TV content that drives the business at competitors Amazon, Netflix, Yahoo, and others. Surrounded by stars from the multichannel network group — including Duck Dynasty‘s Willie and Korie Robertson; Devious Maids leads Ana Ortiz, Dania Ramirez and exec producer Susan Lucci; Nick and brother Drew Lachey, stars of their own new series about a bar in Cincinnati; and superstar chef Marcus Samuelsson, among many others — Dubuc ribbed introducer Mark Wahlberg, another linchpin of the network, saying “I love it when a man knows his place — right, ladies?”
Dubuc emphasized A+E’s expanding commitment to original programming, to the current tune of $1 billion per year. New shows in the coming season include History’s Texas Rising, about the wild and sometimes violent history of the Texas Rangers; a Lifetime miniseries based on The Red Tent, a popular novel that reworked Old Testament stories through the eyes of women; and A&E’s Dogs Of War, a series about a couple who pair veterans struggling with postwar trauma with canine companions.
Tonight, A&E will unveil the final episode on what will forever be known as The First Season of Duck Dynasty After Phil Robertson Gave That Interview. Much navel-lint gazing has occurred over this fifth season of the network’s flagship reality series, what with the Robertson family patriarch having spent his hiatus appearing in a GQ article comparing homosexuality to bestiality and reminiscing about the Jim Crow south. A&E suspended Phil, causing religious and conservative groups (and a swath of Fox News Channel talent) to rally around him, and his family to indicate they would not continue the show without him. A&E wrapped up the action-packed show hiatus by un-suspending Phil in time for the season debut, though it had virtually the entire season in the can.
This season opened on January 15 with 8.5 million viewers tuned in, snapping a streak of ratings records and posting the show’s first season-to-season drop. In the demo, the opening night’s 4.2 million viewers was down 33%. (Duck Dynasty’s Season 4 debut had drawn drew nearly 12 million to become the No. 1-rated nonfiction series telecast in cable history, edging the Season 4 finale, which was watched by 8.4 million. More recently, the one-hour Duck Dynasty Christmas special logged nearly 9 million viewers.) The second week of Season 5 continued the downward trend after Night 1, drawing just 6.7 million total viewers, down an eye-opening 21% from the season opener. And its 3.6 rating in the adults 25-54 demo was down a less-rough 14% from last week. By last week, the penultimate episode of this season clocked just 4.7 million viewers.
A&E has pulled its other Wahlberg docu-series, Breaking Boston from its lineup after just one episode because…well, 311,000 viewers. The series, about four working-class women coming of age in hardscrabble Boston, was inspired by the tough, hard-as-nails female characters in Mark Wahlberg‘s Oscar-nominated movie The Fighter. A&E ordered the pilot in November 2012 and picked up the series last May. It debuted Thursday, March 13.
A&E Network already was home to Wahlberg‘s family restaurant docu-series Wahlburgers which, last month got an order for 18 additional episodes. But that project, from 44 Blue, Closest to the Hole and Leverage, has averaged 3.5 million total viewers since its debut last month in the post-Duck Dynasty slot. News of Breaking Boston’s cancellation was first reported by Variety, which said it noticed the show was missing from newspaper and interactive program guides for tonight.
UPDATE: ‘Duck Dynasty’s’ Willie Robertson Creates Quandary For TV Reporters Covering President Obama’s State Of Union Address
UPDATE, 7:41 PM: Depending on who you ask, the most sought-after photo op during tonight’s State of the Union address wasn’t with that guy from the Oval Office. It was Duck Dynasty‘s Willie Robertson (and sometime his wife and co-star Korie) that led many lawmakers to bust out their smartphones to post a pic or grab some social media bragging rights. Here are just a couple of examples:
— Lindsey Graham (@GrahamBlog) January 28, 2014
— Alan Nunnelee (@RepAlanNunnelee) January 29, 2014
PREVIOUS, 6:55 PM: The arrival of Duck Dynasty star Willie Robertson at the House chamber where President Barack Obama is delivering his fifth State of the Union Address tonight caused something of a quandary for those journalists trying to cover the event.
Over at CNN, Jake Tapper was positioned where the Washington glitterati enter the hall, in order to stand and applaud – or to not stand and applaud – at various points during Obama’s speech. After noting some of the Supreme Court justices had just walked by him, and that, in the past, there’d been talk as to whether they should even attend the pep rally, Tapper threw to Dana Bash, up in the gallery. She told Tapper that what she was about to describe was “more surreal and bizarre” than even Supreme Court justices because “what I’m looking at now, Willie Robertson is one –”
“I’m sorry to interrupt a discussion of Duck Dynasty,” Tapper broke in, convincing no one. He’d cut her off because Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and VPOTUS Joe Biden were walking by him at that very moment and needed to be seen by viewers nationwide. “But, Dana, sorry, you were talking about one of the stars of Duck Dynasty,” Tapper concluded, like he meant it to sting.
UPDATE, 3:44 PM: Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) caught up with Willie Robertson before tonight’s State of the Union Address and tweeted the photo below.
— Thomas Massie (@RepThomasMassie) January 28, 2014
PREVIOUS, 8:14 AM: Duck Dynasty star Willie Robertson is expected to join Louisiana Rep. Vance McAllister at tonight’s State of the Union Address. Robertson is CEO of the Robertson family’s Duck Commander company — and the State of the Union Address has become one of a handful of Washington’s Celebrity Petting Zoos, though it trails the White House Correspondents Dinner by many, many laps. Willie also is the son of family patriarch Phil Robertson, who landed in hot water after giving an interview to GQ in which he waxed headline-hoggingly about gays and blacks. A&E, you’ll recall, suspended him from the show for an indefinite period but unsuspended him pretty quickly in the wake of wrist-slap blow-back.
McAllister’s returning a favor the Robertson family did for him last November, when Republicans credited Duck Dynasty with a political upset in Louisiana that wound the political newbie in office, thumping both the Tea Party and the GOP establishment. Now it’s the Robertson family that needs help. Returning to A&E’s lineup after Phil’s fiery GQ interview, Duck Dynasty posted its first year-to-year declines, and, last week, Episode 2 of Season 5 continued the downward trend: The adventures of the Robertson clan drew 6.7 million total viewers, down an eye-opening 21% from the season opener. The 3.6 rating in the adults 25-54 demo was down a less-rough 14% from last week.
UPDATE: ABC & ‘Bachelor’ Producers Condemn ‘Bachelor’ Star Juan Pablo Galavis’ Gay People Are “Pervert” Comments As “Careless”, He Apologizes
2ND UPDATE: The damage control tour by The Bachelor star Juan Pablo Galavis continues with another apology, this time to the gay community through GLAAD. He also will be meeting with LGBT Latinos next week:
I have heard from many gay Latinos today who are hurt because of what I said and I apologize. I know gay parents and I support them and their families. They are good parents and loving families. I am a father and I know the feel of being a father, why wouldn’t I want my gay friends to also be happy parents? I also want gay and lesbian youth to know that it is fine to be who you are. Gay or straight, Black or White, Latin or American, what matters here is to respect who we are.
UPDATE, 1 PM: ABC, Warner Horizon and The Bachelor executive producers just issued a statement slamming Bachelor star Juan Pablo Galavis‘ statements that gay people are “pervert” and shouldn’t be allowed to be on The Bachelor. “Juan Pablo’s comments were careless, thoughtless and insensitive, and in no way reflect the views of the network, the show’s producers or studio,” the statement read. It mirrors A&E Network’s reaction to Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson’s controversial comments about gays — but the network and producers stopped short of reprimanding Galavis, a move that created a backlash for A&E, which suspended and then un-suspended Robertson. In the case of The Bachelor, all episodes of Galavis’ season have already been shot with the exception of the Women Tell All and After The Final Rose specials. It is unclear if ABC will proceed with them as planned. Galavis also issued a statement on Facebook, apologizing for his comments and insisting that they were taken out of context. He blamed the use of word “pervert” in reference to gay people on English being his second language and professed his “respect for Gay people and their families.” You can read his full statement under the post.
PREVIOUS 10:20 AM: It’s been what, a month, since the star of a hit reality show made controversial comments about gay people? Cue Juan Pablo Galavis, the popular star of the current cycle of ABC‘s The Bachelor. In an interview with TVPage at ABC’s TCA party last night, the single dad and a former Venezuelan soccer player was asked whether it would be a good idea to have a gay Bachelor. He was firmly against it. “I don’t think it is a good example for kids to watch that on TV,” he said. “I don’t know if I’m mistaken or not, I have a lot of friends like that, but (gays) are more pervert [sic] in a sense, and to me the show will be too strong, too hard to watch on TV.” It remains to be seen what Galavis’ gay friends as well as ABC and The Bachelor producer Warner Horizon will say about those comments. While not as incendiary as last month’s statements by Phil Robertson, star of A&E’s juggernaut Duck Dynasty, Galavis’ stance on the sensitive topic is sure to raise eyebrows and could be damaging to the show.
Sarah Palin insists her new reality series on Sportsman Channel, Amazing America With Sarah Palin, will not be political. More accurately, she told TV critics at the TCA Winter TV Press Tour this morning, “Thank God this isn’t political.” It will, however, touch on “protecting our Constitution,” she said during her breakfast Q&A here in Pasadena. What about the Constitution? The Second Amendment. And the First Amendment. Specifically, she said, about being able to say what you want without fear of losing your job, she explained, adding, “We’ve seen that with other networks recently.” She was, of course, referencing Duck Dynasty. Fan Sarah Palin took to social media to voice her support for Phil Robertson when A&E put him on hiatus for an indefinite period over comments he made in a GQ interview, saying that his suspension is an attack on free speech. “Free speech is an endangered species,” she wrote on Facebook. “Those ‘intolerants’ hatin’ and taking on the Duck Dynasty patriarch for voicing his personal opinion are taking on all of us.”
This morning, Palin — rail-thin and dressed in a bedazzled top, black jeans and American flag platform pumps she says were ordered for her by her niece McKinley “(Named after the mountain in Alaska, Palin said, which in turn, was named after the country’s 25th President William McKinley) — revealed she eats organic. She acknowledged a lot of people don’t associate the Palins “with the granola type of thing.” And their organic food isn’t wrapped in celophane, “it’s wrapped in fur.”
Amazing America, Palin said, will give viewers the opportunity to “see how it is we live out that Americana dream of productivity and loving the great outdoors.” The show will be about living “unguarded, unchained, and living that Red Wild and Blue lifestyle in Alaska — what America used to be.” She hopes to “showcase people places and things in order to inspire… and restore fundamentally what made America so great ” she said, adding “independent,” “clean” and “free.”
Fox News Channel’s New Year’s Eve interview with Duck Dynasty royalty Willie and Kori Robertson might not have contained much actual news – okay, it contained no news, unless you count — Spoiler Alert – Willie revealing he’s hired himself a good looking assistant for the upcoming batch of episodes, and that he hopes not to blow out his knee while skiing in Steamboat Springs, Colo. – but it did deliver ratings.
In the final hour of 2013, FNC clocked 2 million viewers – 33% more than it logged same hour last year. FNC notes that’s the hour in which Willie and Kori chatted, via satellite, with Bill Hemmer and Elisabeth Hasselbeck. Over at CNN, meanwhile, an average of 1.726 million viewers were tuned in to Anderson Cooper and Kathy Griffin. On the bright side for CNN, 742,000 of that crowd fell into the news demo, while only 401,000 of FNC’s 2 mil did same.
And, CNN won the 11 PM -12:30 AM derby, with 2.095 million viewers, to FNC’s 2.028 million — though FNC’s was a best yet for that network. CNN’s demo take more than doubled FNC’s.
Days after A&E announced it had decided to end Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Robertson’s involuntary hiatus over remarks he made in a GQ interview – and just days before the hit reality series’ return to A&E’s lineup — the Robertson family and a popular gun manufacturer unveiled a new Duck Commander line of shotguns, semi-automatic rifles, semi-automatic pistols, etc.
Willie Robertson, CEO of the family’s Duck Commander, made no reference to the imminent announcement on New Year’s Eve, when he and wife Kori appeared on FNC’s ball-dropping late-night special. The press had hoped for something zippier out of that appearance than the “there will be fun good comedy from the family” and “we’re just glad to be back to work… and A&E and us are fine” script to which Willie stuck like glue no matter how many different ways FNC’s Bill Hemmer and Elisabeth Hasselbeck tried to gin up some headlines with questions about the family’s battle with A&E over Phil’s interview. Kori contributed, “We’re all happy, happy, happy. … The best thing about this show is we get to do it as a family.” The only shred of news Hemmer and Hasselbeck managed to pry out of Willie was the “spoiler” that he hires a “good looking assistant for me…and that will be revealed on the show this year.” Asked how father Phil was celebrating the New Year, and his victory over A&E, Willie said, “I reckon he’s asleep” because it’s duck hunting season and he has to get up early.
A&E’s ‘Duck Dynasty’ Headache Continues Despite Phil Robertson’s Return; FNC Snags New Year’s Eve Interview With His Kin
A&E’s Duck Dynasty headache might not be over: Fox News Channel officially announced it will ring in 2014 with Willie and Korie Robertson during its All-American New Year special, which starts at 9 PM Eastern on Tuesday. Appearing live via satellite from Steamboat Springs, CO, for their first television appearance following A&E‘s reinstatement of Phil Robertson on the hit reality series, his son and daughter-in-law will discuss the situation with FNC’s Bill Hemmer and Elisabeth Hasselbeck. The couple also will reflect on 2013 and discuss the year ahead, FNC promised. (Hasselbeck, you’ll recall, visited the Robertson’s home and Duck Call center in Louisiana, with Steve Doocy and Brian Kilmeade, when she made her debut on Fox & Friends).
FNC on-air talent were among those blasting A&E over its decision to put Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Robertson on hiatus indefinitely, owing to comments he made about homosexuality in a GQ interview. Sean Hannity gave out A&E exec phone numbers on his radio show; FNC contributor Sarah Palin took to social media to voice her support for Phil Robertson, saying that his suspension is an attack on free speech. “Free speech is an endangered species,” she wrote on Facebook.
The year 2013 was so jam-packed with TV controversies that, after Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Robertson this month left A&E looking more or less like the spot marked with chalk where the accident had occurred, exhausted Reporters Who Cover Television slumped over in a surfeited sort of coma.
Here’s a look at some of the bigger dust-ups:
UPDATED: GLAAD, the advocacy group whose swift reaction condemning Phil Robertson‘s controversial comments to GQ contributed to A&E‘s decision to suspend the Duck Dynasty star on Dec. 18, and Faith Driven Consumers, the organization behind the IStandWithPhil.com petition, have issued statements in response to A&E’s decision today to lift Robertson’s suspension. GLAAD did not appear especially pleased with the network’s decision, making it clear it doesn’t condone Robertson’s comments on gay relationships and Black Americans’ lives pre-Civil Rights, calling for a dialogue and urging A&E parent A+E Networks not to choose “profits over African American and gay people.” For A&E, co-owned by Walt Disney Co. and Hearst Corp., Duck Dynasty has been the biggest revenue driver, generating some $400 million in merchandise sales, according to Forbes, and bagging $80 million in ad sales for the first nine months of this year alone.
Related: A&E Lifts Phil Robertson’s Suspension; ‘Duck Dynasty’ To Resume Filming In Spring
Meanwhile, North Carolina-based Faith Driven Consumer took credit for Robertson’s reinstatement, which the group claims “is in direct response to the powerful and engaged voices of millions of Faith Driven Consumers, as highlighted by more than 260,000 signers of the IStandWithPhil.com petition.” The organization also insists it should be part of any dialogue A&E would have with advocacy groups and urges A&E to “embrace of our biblically based values and deeply held beliefs.” Here are the two statements:
UPDATE, FRIDAY 6:20 PM: Earlier this week, TV industry sages forecast that if A&E wanted the Robertson family to continue starring in the network’s cash cow Duck Dynasty, after the network put patriarch Phil on indefinite hiatus over incendiary comments he’d made in a GQ interview (the family issued a statement saying they were standing with Phil) the network would have to “eat crow” — and forecast A&E would “do it right after Christmas.”
Which, of course, is exactly what happened! And here’s what the industry is saying about that, via Twitter:
- Thomas Roberts, MSNBC anchor: Just dialing into #DuckDynasty update. Homophobia will not be conquered overnight & certainly not aided by A&E execs.
- Joe Scarborough: As predicted early. Biggest bias in LA is $$$.
- Dan Abrams: But talk about trying to bury the #DuckDynasty news. . after 5p on the Friday before New Years.
- W. Kamau Bell: “Hardest 9 days of my gay hating life.” – Phil Robertson on A&E lifting his suspension from Duck Dynasty.
- Billy Eichner, creator of Funny Or Die’s Fuse TV game show Billy on the Street: Very excited A&E is resuming Duck Dynasty with Phil Robertson. We need more ignorant homophobic racists who probably hate women on the air.
- Andy Lassner, Ellen exec producer: A&E has lifted its suspension of Phil Robertson. Family & friends are said to be gathering tonight to celebrate inside his beard.
- Justin Stangel, Late Show with David Letterman exec prod: A&E lifts Phil Robertson’s suspension from #DuckDynasty. Thank God! I can finally leave my Y2K bunker
More to come…
PREVIOUS, TUESDAY, 10:30 AM: Five Things A&E Did Wrong has become the hot parlor game among TV industry execs at holiday get-togethers. Cable news network execs, meanwhile, are giving thanks for the cultural warfare that has erupted, during this traditionally slow news period, over A&E’s decision to suspend Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Robertson for comparing homosexuality to bestiality in a GQ interview even Phil’s family has acknowledged was “coarse.”
A&E has been dazedly dog paddling since the interview came out and its hit show suddenly stopped quacking like all those other homespun reality series on TV and began Bible-thumping like the religious parable it actually is.
In case you’re one of the many who spend the holiday season hiding under a flat rock: A conservative Christian group has hit 210,000 signatures and counting on its petition demanding A&E immediately reinstate Phil, one retailer has reversed its decision to yank Duck Dynasty products off its shelves because of customer blowback, and a big-box retailer can’t keep up with customer demand for Duck Dynasty merchandise. Conservative possible presidential candidates are taking Phil to their bosom, and he invited the Daily Mail to his church on Sunday to witness him preaching: ‘Jesus will take sins away. If you’re a homosexual, he’ll take it away. If you’re an adulterer, if you’re a liar, what’s the difference? If you break one sin, you may as well break them all.”
“A rookie mistake.” That’s how one TV industry veteran who’s put in time dealing with rogue reality stars described A&E’s handling of its Duck Dynasty nightmare.
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.