A homeschooling innovation brings opportunity and danger
Deep in the duck blinds of Louisiana, there lives a clan of burly men and their devoted wives and children. Should you stumble upon them Wednesdays 10 p.m. Eastern on A&E (or in reruns of previous seasons), you’ll want to brace yourself. Their quirky “redneckedness” is amusing enough that it recently took down American Idol in the TV ratings war.
While the show mimics “manly man” shows like Pawn Stars and Gator Boys, the Robertson clan’s approach is a lot like the duck calls they manufacture: deceptively unique. First of all, it’s a family affair. The show ostensibly follows hunter Phil Robertson and his three grown sons, Willie, Jase, and Jep as they hunt together and run their multimillion-dollar business. Phil is retired and spends much of his time in a camouflage recliner, while the boys goof off and get into trouble. But it’s just as much about their family life, too, and Phil’s wife—a countrified Aunt Bee—along with the sons’ “yuppie wives” help create tension ripe for comedy. For instance, in one particularly hilarious episode, Willie dons camouflage tights and joins his wife’s yoga class.
But in this Dukes-of-Hazard-meets-Seinfeld world, the real secret weapon of funny is Phil’s brother, Uncle Si. A Kramer-like “old coot,” his bizarre antics and insights are utterly captivating. I could try to recount the time he swapped his lackluster hunting dog for a poodle, but—like the bear he claims to have seen “ridin’ a scooter” in Vietnam—you’ll need to see it to believe it.
Some viewers might not appreciate the sexual innuendo (in the context of marriage) or the over-the-top selfishness (though tongue-in-cheek). But considering that the Robertsons are Bible-believing Christians, the clean humor and family-focused plot are likely to entertain without offending too much. Perhaps most notably, these men are using their new-found celebrity to preach the gospel in books, speaking tours, and personal relationships with the rich and famous, which means they may quickly become the new face—beards and all—of evangelical Christianity to Hollywood and the rest of the country.