“May God bless each and every one of you.”
That’s what “Duck Dynasty” patriarch Phil Robertson told viewers Wednesday night on the Season 11 premiere as the family announced that its hit series — one of the most popular reality shows in the history of basic cable — is coming to an end.
“I think what comes across with people more than anything is the authenticity of who you are.”
After five years and 130 episodes, the Robertsons told fans that this season will be their last. New episodes will run through Jan. 18. The show will take a break and the final seven episodes will air March 1 to April 12, according to Deadline. Willie Robertson said the decision was made “as a family” to end the show.
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But don’t worry — the family promised that fans can expect to see them in some specials, and a spinoff series, “Going Si-Ral,” starring Si and Willie Robertson, kicked off Wednesday on A&E. That show features the two analyzing viral videos and online trends.
“Duck Dynasty,” which premiered in March 2012, was a blockbuster hit for A&E, hitting its peak with the Season 4 premiere in August 2013, with 11.8 million viewers. It spawned clothes, hunting gear, a holiday CD, books, and even a spot on America’s political stage.
It was unlike anything else on TV as it followed the lives of Willie Robertson and his brothers, Jase, Jep, and Alan; their wives; their parents, Phil and Miss Kay; and Uncle Si as they ran their highly successful Duck Commander duck-call business in rural Louisiana.
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In December 2013, at the height of its popularity, the show became embroiled in a controversy over remarks made by Phil Robertson in a GQ story. He was asked what he considered sinful. His answer: “Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men.”
A&E suspended Robertson briefly as the NAACP and other groups expressed outrage. But fans defended Robertson in the name of free speech and faith, among them Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who said at the time, “It is a messed-up situation when Miley Cyrus gets a laugh, and Phil Robertson gets suspended.”
But the show prevailed.
This year, Willie Robertson was invited to speak at the Republican National Convention and probably said the truest words of the campaign as he talked about how the media had missed the real issues and concerns facing the country — words that proved to be true on election night.
“It’s been a rough year for the media experts,” Robertson told the convention crowd about the media. “It must be humbling to be so wrong about so much for so long. But I have a theory about why they missed the Trump train. They don’t hang out with regular folks like us, who like to hunt and fish and pray and actually work for a living. Heck, I don’t even know that they know how to talk to people from Middle America. I mean, when I tell ’em I’m from Louisiana, they really start talking real slow and real loud.”
In an interview Tuesday with “The Alan Colmes Show” on Fox News, Robertson said that as he watched Trump’s victory, he realized why “Duck Dynasty” had stayed on so long: It’s “because a lot of these counties [that voted for Trump], let’s face it, are probably the same viewers that watch.”
“Duck Dynasty” struck a chord with audiences because of the family’s values, close bond, and traditions, including praying at the end of each episode, Robertson said.
Regarding Trump’s appeal, he added: “I think what comes across with people more than anything is authenticity of who you are. And I think with the Robertson family, [viewers] saw authenticity. I think with Donald Trump, and in different ways perhaps — he’s a billionaire who lives in New York City; he’s not like us, believe me … But they see him for who [he is] — he’s authentic. He is what he is.”