Though Duck Dynasty was expected by some to return to its biggest ratings yet after its huge controversy last month, the Louisiana-based reality show returned to lower viewership than its previous two premieres.Duck Dynasty's patriarch, Phil Robertson, attracted a lot of negative attention for a GQ magazine interview in which he quoted anti-gay Bible verses, asserted that vaginas are super-cool, and then opined that black people were happier (from his perspective) in America during the Jim Crow era. A&E quickly suspended Robertson from the show indefinitely, which prompted all sorts of people to step up to support his free speech rights to condemn gay people. A&E then defined the terms of his suspension and brought Robertson back into the fold.
Wednesday night’s Duck Dynasty season 5 premiere had 8.5 million viewers. That’s huge for a cable reality show, but down 28 percent from its record-setting fourth season debut in August (11.8 million). It’s also slightly down from the show’s third season premiere in February last year (8.6 million). A&E notes the number up slightly from the fourth season finale on Oct. 23 (though obviously it’s standard to compare premieres to premieres).
This could have been a fluke. Or it could have been a signal. Time will tell.