Unlike most sitcoms on TV these days, the fathers are not dribbling idiots. They are respected by their kids. And grandfather Phil is respected by his grandkids.
The characters are all self-deprecating and don’t mind being the butt of the joke — because it is clear they are all in on the joke and having a grand time creating the show.
It is orderliness that draws us in — the orderliness that is missing in too many American homes that are broken up by divorce or headed by single parents. In the case of the Robertsons, order is made possible by their faith.
And nobody understands that better than Phil.
He explains in his autobiography that he was not a good man in his 20s. He quit teaching — he has a master’s degree in education — and ran a bar. He frequently got drunk and into trouble and was not very nice to his wife and young kids.
But he eventually found his way to church and his Christian faith transformed him. He became a changed man and has since tried to live his life according to the Bible.
Media critics compare “Duck Dynasty” to typical sitcoms, but if there is any one show it should be compared to, it is “The Waltons,” another fine show about a functional, intact family.
Much like “The Waltons,” most “Duck Dynasty” episodes show the entire Robertson clan sitting around the dinner table and saying grace before they break bread together.
It is their togetherness that draws in viewers. We like the way they celebrate simple, traditional values with humor and self-deprecation. We like the way orderliness guides their lives and brings order to their families.
You have to be a cynic to miss the obvious reason so many viewers are tuning in. And most big-city media critics are too cynical to understand what “Duck Dynasty” is really about.
Tom Purcell is an author and a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist.