Ask anyone in Louisiana and they'll tell you that the bayou state's favorite first family doesn't live in the governor's mansion but in the backwoods, where the Robertsons' rags-to-riches story is still unfolding. A homegrown mom-and-pop operation, Duck Commander has become a sporting empire by fabricating top-of-the-line duck calls and decoys out of salvaged swamp wood. This newly minted multi-millionaire family is kept in line by business-savvy Willie, who runs Duck Commander with the help of his brother Jase, their respective wives Korie and Missy, patriarch and founder of the company, Phil, and Uncle Si. Together they run a booming business that employs half their neighborhood, but at the end of the day, you can find the whole family around matriarch Miss Kay's dinner table. Each episode brings a new set of challenges, met with a special brand of Southern know-how and a down-home sense of humor. In the premiere episode Willie, CEO of Duck Commander, catches his crew constructing a testing facility to experiment with new duck calls at the warehouse. Only problem is, their makeshift pond is a flooded dock filled with ducks.
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The world of reality TV has spawned so many strange and unlikely celebrities that by now nothing should come as a surprise. But still… who could have predicted the success of A&E's Duck Dynasty, a series about a family of self-described backwoods Louisiana rednecks who make duck calls? The clan is the Robertsons, whose company, the West Monroe, LA-based Duck Commander, has made them all rich. It was founded some four decades ago by paterfamilias Phil, who doesn't have much to do with day-to-day operations anymore; eldest son Willie, who expanded Duck Commander into a big-time enterprise, is now the CEO, with a cast of characters featuring his Uncle Si (a spaced-out, somewhat stereotypical Vietnam War vet), his brother Jase (who provides the deadpan comic relief), and various others, including wives and kids, making the duck calls and working in the warehouse. By and large, this is a wry, laid-back, ZZ Top-bearded, squirrel-eating crew, much bemused by the straight world. But that doesn't mean there's no conflict. Crusty ol' Phil, "a low-tech guy in a high-tech world" who favors living off the land and hard manual labor, doesn't care much for softies who rely on cell phones and computers; meanwhile, the others, besides Willie, would rather be out shooting fowl (one episode has them putting a decrepit RV in a tree to use as a duck blind), catching frogs, or blowing up beaver dams than filling orders, looking at McMansions with a smarmy realtor, or (in an episode entitled "Sauvignon Beard") trying to make wine with no clue as to how it's actually done (the result, says Jase, "tastes like a cross between doe urine and jalapeño juice."). Of course, considering the genre, one never quite knows what's "real" or not--appearances notwithstanding, these folks are neither dumb (they themselves point out that Phil and all of his brothers, except Si, have college degrees) nor completely unsophisticated. But who cares if there's a little truth-bending going on? With each episode clocking in at a tidy 22 minutes or so, and plenty of good-natured high jinks along the way, Duck Dynasty is a pleasure, guilty or otherwise. --Sam Graham