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Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

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August 14th, 2013
05:58 PM ET

Why fans flock to 'Duck Dynasty'

Fifty years ago "The Beverly Hillbillies" endeared America to the idea of a back country clan sticking to their roots after striking it rich.

But the Clampetts could never have imagined a dynasty like this.

"Duck Dynasty" broke records last season with nearly 10 million viewers tuning in for the finale. That's more than 700 times the population of the family's hometown of West Monroe, Louisiana.

"What the show is, is it's a very effective sitcom," said Brian Lowry, TV critic with Variety. "They've managed to create a patina of authenticity around a show that is very carefully shaped into a very familiar sitcom format."

And unlike the Clampetts, not only are the Robertsons real people, they still live in their hometown.

In fact, their presence there has attracted fans from around the country. One official tour invites visitors to duck into the city of Monroe and "follow the beards."

The famously unkempt facial hair has become a star of its own. CNN's Jake Tapper even felt a bit beard bare when he met Willy Robertson at the White House Correspondents Dinner this year. Luckily, the show is so popular, there's an app for that – the "Duck Dynasty Beard Booth."

Many in Hollywood's more traditional scripted TV comedies and dramas see "Duck Dynasty" and its astounding ratings as a threat, and an example of how television entertainment is being dumbed down to the lowest common denominator.

"There are all kinds of viewers watching some of these shows for different reasons, some watch them because they relate to the characters, and some people watch them to feel superior to the characters," said Lowry.

"The truth is for A&E's purposes, it doesn't matter why people watch, as long as they keep doing it," said Lowry.

Fans argue it is not the beards or the camouflage that attract the show's core audience, it's the Clampett-style clean humor and values. The family's faith is brought to center stage with a prayer at the end of every show.

A wholesome family man of faith from the south with rock star popularity? Cue political parties smelling a winner. Yes, the Twitterverse is echoing calls for duck commander CEO Willie Robertson to fill the congressional seat left vacant this year by Louisiana representative Rodney Alexander.

But in his appearance on Fox News Tuesday, Willie didn't seem too interested.

He wouldn't be the first reality TV show star in Congress. Recall Sean from "The Real World: Boston," now known as Congressman Duffy, Republican of Wisconsin.

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