Duck Dynasty

What is 'Duck Dynasty' and how did it become the biggest show on cable?

March 13, 2013 at 1:55 PM ET

Even if you haven't seen it, you've probably heard about A&E's Duck Dynasty (Wednesdays, 10 p.m. ET). And if a reality show about a family of duck call manufacturers in Louisiana isn't your idea of must-see TV, we get it. But if you give these hillbilly millionaires a chance, they'll probably change your mind. 

Let's start from the beginning. Why, in the first place, did these bearded dudes become the focus of a weekly series? Why is everyone from Jon Stewart to Entertainment Weekly talking about it? And why did its recent Season 3 premiere capture 8.6 million viewers—the biggest cable TV audience yet this year? Well, because it's actually kind of funny. And heartwarming. And totally different from other reality shows of its ilk. 

The show chronicles the Robertsons, a Louisiana family of (proud) rednecks, who run a wildly successful duck-whistle manufacturing business. Patriarch Phil, an avid hunter, made his fortune by creating the Duck Commander Duck Call whistle in 1973. He and his wife Kay raised four boys, two of whom, Willie and Jase, are prominent cast members and key players in the family business, along with Phil's brother Si.

Robertson men have long, unruly beards. They have bad teeth, spit a lot, wear a lot of camo and talk like hicks. They're also wealthy family guys who live in McMansions with their pretty wives. The dichotomy—gobs of money, backwoods vibe—is amusing. But so are the Robertsons themselves.

Willie, the CEO, is the responsible brother, which means he runs things. But make no mistake, he still comes off like a funny cross between Silent Bob and The Dude from The Big Lebowski. His Uncle Si and his smart-alecky younger brother, Jase (think Jason Lee in My Name is Earl) delight in teasing Willie—who generally endures the good-natured ribbing.

"Willie's idea of roughing it is opening a garage door manually," cracks Si when his nephew resists joining him on a duck-hunting trip. "Willie is as wound up as a coon dog tryin' to pass a peach seed," says his brother Jase. And so on.

Need more proof of their antics? Click here! 

The episodes play out with sitcom-like plots. A recent story had Willie trying to lose weight before his high-school reunion, and going about it in silly ways (like trying his wife's yoga class). Watch below:

In the end, he thinks he's succeeded. But we viewers know that, actually, his wife just exchanged his jacket for a bigger one. It might as well be a plot from The Honeymooners, or Modern Family. And the one-liners are equally as funny as in those sitcoms. Producers are probably helping the cast with the witty dialogue, but no matter. It works.

A version of this story originally appeared on iVillage.