Just ducky: Robertsons entertain millions in 'Duck Dynasty'

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Kyla Brewer / TV Media
Jep Robertson stars in "Duck Dynasty"

Jep Robertson stars in "Duck Dynasty"

From the Osbournes to the Kardashians, reality TV has churned out its fair share of famous families, but not all of them are created equal. While some make headlines for their outrageous spats or questionable fashion sense, another family has been staying humble in Louisiana.

Viewers who want to trade in Hollywood opulence for a little down-home southern charm can watch the Robertson family in a new episode of "Duck Dynasty," airing Wednesday, Aug. 10, on A&E. Cameras follow their personal and professional lives as they run their sporting goods business, Duck Commander.

Willie and Korie Robertson opened this 10th season by celebrating what they thought was their 25th wedding anniversary. (As it turned out, it was actually their 24th.) They also welcomed their new adopted son, Rowdy, to the family. Other highlights of season 10 include a surprise marriage proposal in NYC and Uncle Si's quest to fight a parking ticket. Also, Willie and Korie's daughter Sadie considers colleges, and a big storm hits West Monroe.

Unlike a lot of reality TV families, the Robertsons' claim to fame has nothing to do with the entertainment industry, at least initially. In fact, they made their formidable fortune selling Duck Commander duck calls and other sporting goods under the Duck Commander brand. It all started with patriarch Phil Robertson, who founded Duck Commander in 1973 and built it from the ground up. A former Washington Redskins prospect, Phil is an old-fashioned guy who dislikes modern technology. He's married to Kay Robertson, a.k.a. Miss Kay.

Phil may have created the brand, but it's his son Willie who's credited with transforming the family business into a multimillion-dollar empire. He has five kids with his wife, Korie, who's also heavily featured in the series. Willie's brother Jase oversees manufacturing at the company, while baby brother Jep is known for filming and editing the Robertsons' duck hunts. Eldest brother Marshal "Alan" doesn't sport the trademark Robertson beard, but the preacher is no less a part of the family.

Phil's brother, known as Uncle Si, rounds out the cast of Robertsons. The Vietnam veteran is known for his ability to spin a yarn and his frequent use of the words "hey" and "Jack." He's been married to his wife, Christine, for 48 years, but she has never appeared in "Duck Dynasty." Neither of their two children have either.

The bearded, camo-clad Robertson men have earned quite a following over the course of the show's 10 seasons, but "Duck Dynasty" had a humble start in prime time. Spun off from a smaller OLN series, the first season of "Duck Dynasty" averaged less than two million viewers. By the fourth season, however, the show had peaked with more than nine million average viewers, thanks in part to a record-breaking season premiere, which drew 11.8 million viewers. The episode became the most-watched non-fiction cable series ever at the time.

Phil Robertson as seen in "Duck Dynasty"

Phil Robertson as seen in "Duck Dynasty"

The show has been a huge ratings success, but it's also been a merchandising boon with "Duck Dynasty" board games, jigsaw puzzles, apparel, action figures and more. There's even a Duck Commander cruise to Key West and Cozumel. Of course, having a hit TV show has also been good for the family hunting and sporting goods business. Duck Commander is a bona fide pop culture phenomenon -- in 2013, Yahoo! reported that the Robertsons topped the list of celebrity/pop culture-themed costume searches on the search engine.

While the general mood of the series tends to be jovial, that is not to say it hasn't faced criticism and controversy. ln December 2013 -- at the veritable height of the show's success -- A&E suspended Phil because of comments he made to GQ magazine's Drew Magary regarding his beliefs on homosexuality.

The incident sparked a lot of debate and discussion among individuals and sponsors, and, on Dec. 27, A&E reinstated the patriarch, explaining that the Robertsons had expressed regret for the "coarse language." The network then launched a public service announcement to promote unity, tolerance and acceptance among all people. While many criticized A&E's actions, "Duck Dynasty" has continued with Phil at the helm. Considering the sizable and almost exponential drop in ratings since the show's heyday, it seems Phil's remarks may have alienated some fans.

Still, "Duck Dynasty" has a loyal following and has even spawned a spinoff. Jep and his wife, Jessica, shared their experience adopting a newborn baby in "Jep and Jessica: Growing the Dynasty," which premiered Wednesday, Jan. 20, on A&E. The debut drew more than two million viewers, but it seems to have been a flop, with no official mention of a season 2 yet.

Ratings for "Duck Dynasty" have likewise been slowly tapering off since season 4, but this milestone season has lots to offer for diehard fans of the series, who are sure to enjoy the Robertsons' latest antics in a new episode of "Duck Dynasty," airing Wednesday, Aug. 10, on A&E.