Duck Dynasty is back for the beginning of Season 5, and the lingering controversy over Phil Robertson could bring record-smashing ratings to the hit A&E reality show.
The show is back on the air for the first time since Robertson’s GQ interview in which he said he believes it is sinful for men to have sex with men and that black people in the pre-Civil Rights era South were happy. The comments drew controversy to the show and heaped criticism on the Robertson clan, ultimately leading to a brief suspension for Phil.
Some television writers think the controversy may actually help Duck Dynasty. The suspension rallied supporters around Robertson, leading to the creation of “I Stand With Phil” groups and drew supporters from across the country, including Sarah Palin.
Viewers who tune into the Duck Dynasty premiere won’t see any effect of Robertson’s suspension. The show was on a break from shooting when A&E announced his suspension, so he will still appear in all episodes.
The Season 5 premiere could get a boost from the publicity, as many first-time viewers tune in to see what the show and the Robertson family are all about.
Other reality shows have benefited from controversy. Programs like Keeping Up With The Kardashians and the Real Housewives series have seen some of their highest ratings when viewers are expecting drama or controversial topics are addressed.
Duck Dynasty itself is coming off a stretch of giant ratings. According to Variety, the Season 4 premiere Duck Dynasty drew in 11.8 million viewers, beating records set by TLC’s Jon & Kate Plus 8 in 2009 shortly after Jon Gosselin’s cheating scandal.
The Robertson family has also been popular, releasing a best-selling Christmas album late last year and making several television appearances outside of Duck Dynasty.
The Season 5 premiere of Duck Dynasty airs Wednesday, January 15, on A&E at 10 pm.