Wednesday night’s season 5 premiere of the A&E reality series drew 8.5 million viewers, breaking a streak of rating records with its first season-to-season drop. That’s down 28 percent from last season’s record-setting debut of nearly 12 million viewers. It’s also slightly less than the season 3 premiere of 8.6 million but up from the 8.4 million who watched the season 4 finale.
The Robertson family was making its first appearance in back-to-back episodes since patriarch Phil sparked controversy last month over an interview he gave to GQ. Robertson not only criticized gays in the interview, saying they wouldn’t be allowed into heaven, but stated that blacks were “perfectly happy” before the Civil Rights era.
The fifth season kicked off with no mention of the controversy, instead focusing on the return of Rebecca, Willie and Korie’s exchange-student-turned-daughter, and Uncle Si battling the bird flu while watching every “Air Bud” movie ever made on VHS.