Home Chris Graham: “Duck Dynasty” star suspension get us talking … about “Duck Dynasty”

Chris Graham: “Duck Dynasty” star suspension get us talking … about “Duck Dynasty”


Reality shows have a quick shelf life. (Long live “The Osbournes,” right?) Not that “Duck Dynasty” was necessarily nearing the end of its shelf life, but you had to be wondering if the show was approaching the shark, if it hadn’t already jumped it and stuck the landing.

tv-clipart(The Fonz in a leather jacket on water skis. We did not need to see those white legs.)

Enter Phil Robertson, the paterfamilias of the “Duck Dynasty” clan. We know that Mr. Robertson is a rigid conservative. He famously voted for Mitt Romney for president because he said Romney is from Salt Lake City, and where would you rather be turned around asking for directions at three in the morning? Utah, or Chicago?

(Romney is actually from Boston, but the point remains.)

And so we now have Robertson, who this past summer said in an interview that he wanted out of the hit A&E series, apparently figuring out a way to get his wish.

After a provocative interview with GQ was previewed online Wednesday night, with Robertson equating homosexuality to bestiality and suggesting that blacks were happier and better off (“singing and happy,” as he put it) under Jim Crow, well, it’s no surprise that A&E has distanced itself from its erstwhile star.

“We are extremely disappointed to have read Phil Robertson’s comments in GQ, which are based on his own personal beliefs and not reflected in the series Duck Dynasty,” A&E said in a statement announcing his “indefinite suspension” from filming on the reality show.

“His personal views in no way reflect those of A&E Networks, who have always been strong supporters and champions of the LGBT community. The network has placed Phil under hiatus from filming indefinitely.”

“Indefinite suspension” is an interesting term, considering that filming has been under way for the new season of “Duck Dynasty” that will debut in January.

Phil isn’t being written out of the new season, for obvious reasons, and how much do you want to bet that this “controversy” ends up playing a part in how the season turns out a few months down the road?

If my use of quotation marks around the word “controversy” doesn’t make it clear what I see going on here, let me just spell it out for you. This, folks, is so obviously scripted that I suspect Vince McMahon is convening an emergency meeting of his writing team at WWE headquarters in Stamford, Conn., to chew them out for not thinking of an angle this brilliant for the umpteenth John Cena-Randy Orton rematch that they’re going to ask us to buy again next month.

I don’t doubt to any degree that Robertson said exactly what was on his mind. No flunky from A&E needed to tell him to say that he prefers a vagina to a man’s anus, for example. Nobody needed to be in the background holding up a cue card to keep him on track toward offering up the observation that no one that he saw in the black community in the 1950s was “singing the blues” about being denied the right to vote and other basic civil rights by “those doggone white people.”

It’s almost guaranteed that A&E was not only ready for the day that Robertson would eventually give an interview that would reveal these kinds of innermost feelings, but already had the righteously indignant PR response ready for the send button once the inevitable firestorm flashed up.

The only evidence you need to that effect is this: that we’re right now talking about “Duck Dynasty” again a couple of weeks in advance of the show’s next season premiere.

A friend of mine on Facebook wrote me to say that his “church friends” were blowing up his phone with outrage over A&E’s response. A friend of a friend posted a link to a boycott A&E Facebook page that popped up within minutes of the news that as of this writing has more than 105,000 likes. (When I first clicked on it 30 minutes ago, it had 39,000 likes. I’m guessing a million by the morning, and that’s probably a low, low number.)

A&E didn’t “distance” itself from Phil Robertson because of all the liberal, LGBT Democrats who watch the show and would be so outraged that they’d never watch it again. You can count the liberal LGBT fans of “Duck Dynasty” on one hand with a mitten on. This whole episode was done to get the show’s hard-core base of fans fired up enough to do things like start Facebook pages threatening to boycott A&E, which most of them do already when “Duck Dynasty” isn’t on.

You can bank on the fact that the show will debut its next season to record ratings, Remember how conservatives lined up in droves in the summer of 2012 to eat at Chick-fil-A after liberal groups launched a boycott of their own over controversial comments on gays and lesbians made by the chain’s founder. This next “Duck Dynasty” season will be the Super Bowl for A&E (somebody call Chick-fil-A to get the catering tray … stat!).

And advertisers, otherwise chastened by the likes of GLAAD from spending their dollars, can now safely do so since A&E has rid the show of that dastardly Phil Robertson.

It’s a win-win for all involved. Phil Robertson wanted off the show, and he’s gone. “Duck Dynasty” fights off whatever slump may have been in the waiting as the clock counts down on its 15 minutes of fame. A&E pumps out at least one more season of ratings and ad dollars from its franchise. Advertisers get insulation from spending dollars on a show with questionable content. Conservatives can get riled up over the free-speech rights to say whatever vile thing their favorite celebrities want to spew out about gays and lesbians. Gays and lesbians can get all smug about having gotten a conservative anti-hero fired for engaging in hate speech.

And then there’s me, a lowly web columnist, hoping to attract a few more clicks by writing about everybody else.

Ain’t America great!

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Have a guest column, letter to the editor, story idea or a news tip? Email editor Chris Graham at [email protected]. Subscribe to AFP podcasts on Apple PodcastsSpotifyPandora and YouTube.