The moment Duck Dynasty fans were afraid would never come arrived tonight. Just one month after A&E suspended star Phil Robertson for his racist and homophobic remarks in an interview with GQ, the cable network aired the premiere of season 5. And hammering home their investment in the Dynasty, the network introduced two new cast members -- Rebecca Robertson and John David Owen.
So now for the big question -- did the Robertson family use their return to TV to address the dark cloud hanging over their heads?
The short answer is "No."
But A&E certainly sent a message with the premiere. Not only was it a double header, with two 30-minute episodes back-to-back, but the family's scandal-plagued patriarch was front and center in each. Phil appeared in the opening scene of the first episode and closed out the second with one of the family's famous prayers.
Phil did not, however, carry each episode with his own storyline. Along with the regular cast of characters -- from dopey Uncle Si to oft-disgruntled Jase -- fans were treated to two newbies who dictated much of the hijinks.
And hijinks indeed abounded.
In that sense, nothing on Duck Dynasty has changed. The show has a formula that its fans adore, and A&E knows better than to mess with it.
Something big happens. The family gets together to either deal with it or celebrate. Things go wrong. Jokes get told. They pray. The end.
And so it was tonight, with the exception of the new cast members being brought in for a little scenery change.
Perhaps it was simply coincidence, but it was hard not to notice that both Rebecca and John David are about as far from Phil as you can get and still be connected to the Robertson clan, particularly Rebecca.
She was introduced in the first of the night's episodes as Willie and Korie's daughter who they adopted after she came to spend time as a foreign exchange student in West Monroe. Originally from Taiwan, Rebecca has spent the last two years in LA (as Willie says, Los An-guh-leez) studying fashion, and now the 24-year-old is a boomerang kid moving back in with mom and dad.
Dressed to the nines, with a little dog in a little purse, Rebecca looked more like an Asian Paris Hilton than a Louisiana redneck.
And then there's John David, a relative of Korie's who was front and center on the second episode of the night, taking a gig as Willie's new assistant (or as Jase called him, his manny). He's got the beard, and when he threw on a flag bandanna, John David passed for a younger Willie Robertson.
Emphasis on the younger. Dressed in a pair of flimsy flip-flops and quoting stoner flick Nacho Libre ad nauseum, John David is clearly several generations past Phil. And you know what they say about each generation being substantially more progressive than the last?
Then again, maybe any hints of a changing of the guard were less about moving way from Phil's backward ways and more of an attempt to appeal to younger, more progressive viewers who were driven away by the old man's hate speech.
The fact is, tonight's premiere was simply another Duck Dynasty episode that was much like every other Duck Dynasty episode that's aired in seasons 1 through 4.
If you are charmed by such sage bits of advice as "May you never barf up your gumbo" and "What redneck doesn't want a butler?" then surely you loved it.
If you were hoping, however, for a real sign of change from the Robertsons, the Duck Dynasty premiere was not the place to find it.
Were you surprised the family didn't address the controversy head on? What did you think of the premiere?
Image via Gurney Productions