As the Phil Robertson flare-up of America's never-ending culture war began to subside, some observers began to wonder if A&E's decision to suspend and then reinstate the "Duck Dynasty" patriarch was little more than a publicity stunt.
Well, if that's what the folks at A&E were doing, there's some bad news: It didn't work.
According to Deadline, the latest season premiere of A&E's flagship reality show saw its first-ever season-to-season drop in ratings, clocking 8.5 million viewers, 28 percent less than the previous season's 12 million. The show saw a big drop in ratings among adults 18-49 in particular, with 4.2 million tuning in, a decrease of 33 percent.
Publicity stunt or not (and, for what it's worth, we're guessing the answer is not), it would appear that becoming a national media sensation for bigoted comments is not a surefire way to strike ratings gold.
The two back-to-back episodes were the first appearance on A&E of the Robertson family since patriarch Phil’s controversial comments about gay men and blacks in a GQ interview that caused A&E to suspend him. After the rest of the family indicated they would not do the show without him, and religious organizations and a legion of conservatives stood by him, A&E reversed its decision, lifting Phil’s suspension.
In the season kickoff, Uncle Si determined "Air Bud" is a better movie than the "Bourne" franchise, Si came down with “bird flu” caused by Si-crobes, the Robertson women plan a party and, as promised by Willie Robertson on Fox News Channel's New Year’s Eve telecast, he hired a personal assistant – his wife’s cousin. There was no discussion about the GQ interview and aftermath. That’s because the episodes – and virtually all of this spring season – had been shot before the article came out and A&E took Phil out behind the woodshed and slapped his wrists.