(Photo: Duck & Dressing/File)
Duck Dynasty's Season 5 premiere ratings were nearly identical to those of its Season 3 Premiere and slightly higher than the reality show's Season 4 finale. However, the show did see a drop from its massive record-setting Season 4 premiere, which broke cable history for viewers on a non-fiction reality TV show.
With 8.5 million viewers tuning into Wednesday's premiere, "Duck Dynasty" almost matched last February's Season 3 numbers, where 8.6 million tuned in, and the October Season 4 finale figures of 8.4 million.
The numbers were down from the Season 4 premiere's record breaking 11.8 million viewers — although that figure of course made the A&E reality television show the most-watched non-fiction series telecast in cable history.
The show is just several weeks removed from A&E's Dec. 15 suspension of family patriarch Phil Robertson for comments he made in a GQ Magazine interview about homosexuality. The Duck Commander founder's words, labeling homosexuality sin, provoked ire from LGBT and civil rights' activists, who called for A&E to drop Duck Dynasty altogether from the network. A&E did give in and suspended Robertson "indefinitely."
However, that decision sparked an even larger backlash from Duck Dynasty fans, as well as free speech advocates, with hundreds of thousands of furious fans signing petitions to have Robertson reinstated, while many others vowed to boycott the A&E network for its treatment of Robertson.
The A&E network again caved in to pressure, and after just nine days into the "indefinite" suspension, reinstated Robertson.
In the aftermath of Robertson's comments, his family released a statement where they acknowledged that although Phil's comments were "coarse," they claimed that he would "never incite or encourage hate" and suggested the show could be canceled if Phil was not reinstated.
Earlier this month, Alan Robertson told The Christian Post that the family was pleased that the show would be continuing and that they would continue expressing their convictions.
"We basically stood with dad, and I think he has the right to express his biblical views, as well as his opinions," Alan told CP. "Obviously now, I think A&E is on board with that as well. They reinstated him, which is a good thing. I say now we just try to make a great television show and move forward. We're going to continue to talk about the Bible and try to help people, like we always have. That really never was in danger of not happening, and all this does is make us more bold to talk to people."
The next episode of season five, "Life of Si," premieres on Jan. 22 at 10 p.m. on the A&E network.