For a guy who renamed himself after a “Brady Bunch” character, perhaps the oddest thing about Gov. Bobby Jindal’s blockbuster TV debut is that it took him 43 years.
Jindal has checked off some pretty big boxes on his bucket list in less than five decades. He’s a Rhodes scholar. He’s a governor. He delivered his own child, tying off the umbilical cord with a shoestring. He’s dined at the White House. He has an arsenal of jokes for political gatherings. He has a Wikipedia page. He’s a possible presidential contender.
However, he’s never taken a prime-time turn, other than on news programs, in a state that’s riddled with reality TV shows. Pawnbrokers, alligator hunters, vacationing rednecks, bayou billionaires and even a silver-haired former governor have bared their lives to cable networks. Work at the Legislature grinds to a halt when Billy the Exterminator stops by in a leather-and-crucifix ensemble or when “Swamp People” star Troy Landry gamely hollers “Choot ’em” in the House chamber.
Now, Jindal is embracing the reality TV craze and boosting his profile.
“Duck Dynasty” is back at 9 p.m. Wednesday for its sixth season. Jindal — who was born Piyush but started calling himself Bobby, after TV’s Bobby Brady, as a preschooler — joins the West Monroe clan in front of the cameras.
The show airs just a day after the governor celebrated his 43rd birthday with a trip to New York City for fund raising and energy-policy discussion. Hopefully, he had more fun back in February, when he filmed with the “Duck Dynasty” family.
A&E has released only a snippet of the governor’s appearance. Dressed in khakis and a blue shirt, Jindal looks to be a little more comfortable than he was in his widely panned national address, even if he didn’t follow the Robertson family’s fashion lead by donning camouflage, growing a beard and wrapping a bandanna around his head.
“Duck Dynasty” chronicles the lives of the Robertsons, a West Monroe family who made it big by crafting duck calls. Jindal stopped by the Duck Commander headquarters earlier this year to present the inaugural Governor’s Award for Entrepreneurial Excellence.
Television crews were on hand for the governor’s visit, producing an episode that revolves around Jindal. One of the third-generation Robertsons offers to give an introductory speech and struggles with the task. The female Robertsons focus on picking out clothing for the visit.
Jindal said he hopes the premiere sets a ratings record, adding that he won’t get any royalty checks from his appearance. “I don’t get script approval. I don’t get previews,” he said.
For the premiere, Jindal is skipping the red carpet — assuming there is one — in favor of watching from a sofa at the Governor’s Mansion. “I’ll be watching it at home with my kids. I hope that the millions of Americans who watch the show will see that Louisiana is a fun place to visit, and that it is a great place to raise a family and grow a business,” he said.
The governor isn’t the first Louisiana politician to take a stab at reality television. Former Gov. Edwin Edwards allowed the world to see his bickering relatives, son Eli’s birth, estate planning and birthday party on “The Governor’s Wife.”
Edwards’ show never found a niche audience. Within a few weeks, it was placed in A&E’s “classics” stable, and Edwards switched focus to a congressional campaign.
“Duck Dynasty” struggled with ratings after the show’s patriarch, Phil Robertson, characterized gays as sinners and black people as happy, crooning cotton-picking laborers before the civil rights movement. A&E suspended Robertson but quickly relented after Jindal came to his defense.
Jindal said Robertson was a victim of hypocrisy that allows Miley Cyrus’ career to flourish despite her twerking controversy. Twerking is a term for sexually suggestive dancing.
The show’s fourth-season premiere drew 11.77 million viewers. It closed out its fifth season with 6 million viewers after Robertson’s controversial remarks.
The sixth season apparently will be filled with duck quacks, rappelling and firefighter training. In other words, not quite “The Brady Bunch.”
Follow Michelle Millhollon on Twitter @mmillhollon. For more coverage of Louisiana government and politics, follow our Politics Blog at http://blogs.theadvocate.com/politicsblog/