For the sprawling (and bearded) Robertson family of A&E’s “Duck Dynasty,” it wouldn’t be Christmas without a duck.
And this year, they’ve found a new way to enjoy the waterfowl that has meant so much to them.
At this year’s day-long Christmas celebration — which will consist mostly of eating, according to family member Willie Robertson — a duck will make up one part of a four-part main dish that the Robertsons have dubbed a “purducken.”
You’ve heard of a “turducken”? Well, a purducken takes the turducken concept one step farther. Where a turducken consists of a duck stuffed inside a chicken stuffed inside a turkey (all de-boned, of course), a purducken takes the turducken and stuffs it inside a suckling pig. The thing is then roasted and eaten.
And it is delicious, Willie Robertson assured us when we interviewed him on the phone this week about the holidays in advance of the very first “Duck Dynasty” Christmas special, scheduled to air Wednesday night (Dec. 5) at 10/9c. The one-hour special is titled “I’m Dreaming of a Redneck Christmas.” And it will probably score big ratings. Just last Wednesday, “Duck Dynasty” attracted 4.8 million viewers for two back-to-back episodes — great numbers for A&E and a sign that this reality series about a hairy family of Louisianans who made millions manufacturing duck calls is catching fire.
“Pork goes with everything,” Willie enthused when we asked him if the flavor of the pig comingled effectively with the turkey, chicken and duck in the purducken that was prepared for the Christmas show by his mom, Miss Kay. “You can [combine] pork with any kind of meat. It’s like bacon — you can wrap it on anything. Whatever you wrap it on, it just gets better and better!”
Willie, 40, is the CEO of Duck Commander, the family-run business that is the focal point of “Duck Dynasty.” Also featured on the show are two of his brothers, all of their wives and various children, his father and mother, and at least one uncle. Among this show’s most striking characteristics: All of the Robertson men sport long beards. In fact, the show uses a ZZ Top song, “Sharp Dressed Man,” as its theme song.
With their own Christmas special about to air on A&E, we wanted to know if the Robertsons watch holiday TV specials. Willie said yes. “[The rest of the year] I watch a lot of baseball and stuff, and a lot of those things are over — no golf on TV, no baseball, football is basically once a week, and college football is about over. So by then, I start watching Christmas-y stuff. As kids, we watched all the Charlie Brown specials. We only had three channels so it was always ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’,” he said.
Willie then revealed at least two traditions that remain more or less the same each Christmas in the Robertson family. One is the presence of duck on the holiday table. The other: Gag gifts that his mother is fond of giving.
“My mother loves to pass out joke gifts, that’s her big deal,” he told us, laughing at the memory. “You open up stuff that’s so bizarre and you’ll be like, Mom, what’s the joke? And she forgot why she bought it because she bought it about two months ago. It could have been something that was going on in October and that was all forgotten. We have a lot of fun with that.”
Care to give us an example? we asked him. “You’ll get a card and the card will say Happy Grandparents Day, or I’ll open [a gift] and it’ll be like a statue of a little fat guy. Or you’ll open it up sometime and it’ll just be like a potholder, you know, with a kitten on it and I’m, like, What’s the joke? And she’s forgotten what she thought was so funny about that. Or she’ll give you a magazine on how to make pottery or something …”
In the “Duck Dynasty” Christmas special, you’ll see Willie playing Santa for a group of kids at a church Christmas party. And though he already sports his own long beard, he dons a white one to play St. Nick. On the basis of that, we felt it would be OK to ask him about his trademark facial hair.
Willie, we asked, when was the last time you were without a beard? “The last time I was clean-shaven was probably eight years ago,” he said. “I did shave eight years ago.
“We used to trim ‘em back,” he explained, “my brothers and I. Dad never did, but [brother] Jace and I are runnin’ a business. We’d go and have a big business meeting with, you know, a huge company or store chain or something, and we kind of thought, Man, you gotta clean it up, and we’d wear ties and suits and I thought that’s what you had to do. And then, kind of when I took over [the company], I said to Jace let’s just go like we wanna go, you know, have our beards and hair, you know, whatever. That’s who we are and that’s what we oughta do. So we did that.
“We love our beards,” he said, “especially now that it’s winter. It’s a lot more pleasant. In the summer months when it’s hot, you gotta grind it out. … We’re out in the woods a lot and when that cold wind gets blowin’, my face stays a whole lot warmer with a beard than shaved.”
Willie noted that beards are nothing new, and he gave us some insight into the beard’s hallowed history in America. “If you go back 150 years in America, everybody looked like me because they only shaved you when you passed away! So [when] some cat shaved his beard and started walking down through town everybody took off runnin’ [because] they thought a ghost had come up out of one of them coffins because everyone in town had a beard!”
Turning back to the subject of holiday TV viewing, Willie revealed a family tradition that involves his favorite holiday movie of all time. It’s “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,” the 1989 comedy starring Chevy Chase, Beverly D’Angelo and Randy Quaid as cousin Eddie.
“We watch it every year,” Willie said, explaining why the movie captures the holiday spirit for him. “Well, it’s about a family. I can relate to cousin Eddie [who's like] my crazy uncle Si. We don’t take ourselves too seriously. We like to laugh and we like to watch stuff like that.”
One TV show he has yet to watch: “Whisker Wars” on IFC, the reality series about extreme beards. “I’ve never watched that show, but I have seen the promos and I’ve been meaning to watch it.”
Willie is the one Robertson family member who’s listed in the credits of “Duck Dynasty” as an executive producer of the show. So when we asked him why he thinks “Duck Dynasty” has caught on, he gave a very savvy answer.
“I think it’s a couple things,” he said thoughtfully. “I think it’s a show [that came along] at the right time because it’s positive. It has family values and that digs deeper into people. They watch it almost as a cause — [like it's something] they want to get to, what they’d maybe like to be. I think there is so much other stuff on TV that is not that way that it stood out, and I thought the time was right. Nowadays there are just so many train-wreck shows on TV about families that will literally just do anything. That’s what I hear mostly.
“Then, the show combines that with the comedy. I think because it’s funny, people laugh and it breaks down all barriers and stereotypes. It’s amazing the different people who watch it and love it — just everybody and anybody.”
“Duck Dynasty” is now in the midst of its second season on A&E. After Wednesday’s Christmas special, the show will go on hiatus, returning for the remaining 13 episodes of the season this winter (probably in February).
“I’m Dreaming of a Redneck Christmas” airs Wednesday (Dec. 5) at 10 p.m./9c on A&E.