First, the good news for the “Duck Dynasty” Robertson clan: A whole lot of people tuned in to watch their series return for a fifth season on Wednesday.
Now, the bad news: It wasn’t quite the crowd that tuned in for the last season premiere. Or even the one before that.
The Season 5 premiere of “Duck Dynasty” — the first new episode since the controversy that family patriarch Phil Robertson stirred with anti-gay comments that he made in a GQ interview — drew 8.5 million total viewers. Which is an impressive number, especially for cable. And it’s a hair higher than the 8.4 million total viewers that the Season 4 finale drew in October.
But the premiere numbers mark a distressing reversal of momentum for the series: It’s the first season premiere that has actually fallen short of the previous season’s debut. And it did so by a pretty wide margin.
The Season 4 premiere in August 2013 drew a record 11.8 million total viewers — which shakes out to a 28 percent drop for Wednesday’s premiere. Granted, the previous premiere took place during the summer, when the networks were mostly in reruns.
But the Season 3 premiere, in February 2013, also bested the most recent season debut, edging it out with 8.6 million total viewers.
It’s not exactly an encouraging sign, particularly considering that “Duck Dynasty” doubled its audience between its series premiere and its Season 2 premiere — and then doubled it again between the Season 2 premiere and Season 3 premiere. (See chart for full trajectory.)
With Season 5’s premiere drawing essentially even with the Season 3 premiere and the Season 4 finale — and considering the boost that the Season 4 premiere most likely received from a lack of competition from the networks — it’s hard to say that the controversy over Robertson’s comments hurt the show. But it certainly doesn’t seem to have helped.
And given the steady growth in series premieres had enjoyed up to this point, it’s hard to question whether a little wind has been taken out of the duck calls.
Like the old saying goes: If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck and quacks like a duck … maybe Phil Robertson just might have been better off keeping his opinions to himself.