published Sunday, January 27th, 2013

Kennedy: Happy, happy, happy

When your family ranges in age from six to 54, finding a one-size-fits-all television show is hard. For our brood, "Duck Dynasty" on A&E does the trick.

If you haven't seen it, "Duck Dynasty" is about a family of self-described rednecks -- the Robertsons -- living in West Monroe, La., who got rich making duck calls. All the men in the family wear camo and have scraggly beards, like a bunch of Taliban going on a deer hunt.

Except for a cameo appearance by a Cadillac Escalade or a quick shot of a suburban McMansion, there aren't many trappings of wealth on the show.

Even the luxuries are quickly shot down -- goats mess in the back of the Caddy and haughty neighborhood association members frown on gutting a deer on the front lawn of the McMansion.

On the surface, "Duck Dynasty" might sound like some sort of Cajun knock-off of "The Beverly Hillbillies" -- rednecks strike it rich -- but it's actually more like a realty-show spin on "The Waltons." Every episode ends with the extended Robertson family around a table of food -- often frog legs or squirrel -- saying the blessing.

The patriarch of the clan is Phil Robertson, the 66-year-old originator of the handmade duck calls that made the Duck Commander brand famous. Phil -- whose catch-phrase is "happy, happy, happy" -- thinks all of his grandkids are "yuppies." Meanwhile, he is a sucker for the squirrel stew made by his jovial wife, Miss Kay.

Phil has retired to a life of vigilante beaver hunting. He uses semi-automatic weapons, flamethrowers and explosives to rid his swampy property of the beaver menace.

His oldest son, Willie, has taken over as CEO of Duck Commander and presides over a band of misfit duck-call makers led by his brothers Jase and Jep. All the boys have inherited Phil's unkempt beard and deadpan disposition.

While the brothers all look like street people, their wives are all gorgeous. Imagine if ZZ Top married the Dixie Chicks.

A subtext of "Duck Dynasty" -- and the reason it appeals to my family -- is that this strange extended clan manages to work and have fun without cursing or cavorting. They also don't bother to hide the fact that they are churchgoers with heartland values.

Our favorite character on the show is Uncle Si Robertson, a slightly daffy Vietnam veteran whose best friend is a green Tupperware cup that is forever filled with sweet tea. Uncle Si's favorite words are "hey" and "Jack," which he uses to bracket his sentences: "Hey, there's nothing better than a hot doughnut, Jack."

In one episode, Uncle Si, who has vision issues, mistakes a raccoon dropping for a wild berry and pops it in his mouth. In another, he consumes 42 hot doughnuts at one sitting to win a wager, and then doubles down on a raffle and wins a camper.

Later he takes a nap in his camper, and the Robertson boys haul him out to the edge of town. Hijinks ensue.

In our favorite episode, Uncle Si heckles his coworkers when they get sidetracked from cleaning the company warehouse and engage in a game of "red-belly ping pong" -- losers have to lift their shirts and take a fast-ball to the stomach.

Most of network television these days seems to filled with sitcoms about weird, blue-state families in which actual marriage is considered a 20th century relic and cop shows that feature guts and gore.

Meanwhile, our family has found a program that tickles our ribs and makes us, well, happy, happy, happy.

Hey, give us "Duck Dynasty," Jack.

about Mark Kennedy...

Mark Kennedy is the editor of the Times Free Press opinion pages and writes the Sunday “Life Stories” column. He also writes a Saturday automotive column, “Test Drive,” for the Business section. For 13 years, Kennedy was features editor of the newspaper, and before that he was the newspaper’s first Sunday editor. The Times Free Press Life section won the state press award for Best Community Lifestyles four times during his tenure. Before Chattanooga’s newspapers ...

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