Duck Dynasty could very well be done.
Sources connected to the hit A&E show, and the Robertson clan, tell E! News that the family is "very serious" about leaving the reality series, after the network suspended patriarch Phil Robertson for his GQ interview, in which he grouped homosexuality in with bestiality as deviant behavior.
"They're an extremely tight-knit family and they're not going to let this get in the way," a source connected to the family explains. "[Phil] is the reason for their success—they're not going to abandon him. They're also not about to let anyone threaten their religious beliefs."
Says one insider who works on Duck Dynasty, "People who work on the show feel like it's a big pissing match and there is no way that anyone can win."
The current plan is to include Robertson in the upcoming fifth season, set to premiere Jan 15 on A&E. Season four had wrapped production before the controversy began. "Phil might be diminished but there's no way to cut him out altogether," says a source.
But can the family really walk away? Will a fifth season even happen?
The network owns the series and all of the intellectual property behind it, for at least one more season. But as one source points out, "The family could do appear on another network once their exclusivity is up with A&E. Under a normal contract, that usually means anywhere from six months to a year after the final episode has aired. However, if the family breaks their agreement with the network, the network could hold them for longer."
It's also fair to assume that A&E needs the series more than the family does. Duck Dynasty is A&E's highest-rated show of all time, and has put the cable network on the map. It is the second-biggest cable series of the year, behind AMC's The Walking Dead, and the Christmas special pulled in nearly 9 million viewers.
Meanwhile, the Robertson family has plenty of financial stability (for, arguably, future generations), thanks to their estimated whopping $400 million fortune. More than half of that comes from their retail brand, currently being sold at Wal-Mart, which could possibly get pulled in the wake of the scandal, as the mega-chain did with Paula Deen in the wake of the N-word controversy. But even still, the family's Christmas album also hit No. 1 on the Billboard charts. They appear to remain a viable brand, for the time being. And they also have a show called Buck Commander on the Outdoor Channel. (A rep for the Outdoor Channel has not responded to request for comment regarding the future of the show.)
A source who works on Duck Dynasty believes the Phil Robertson controversy "can't end well," citing that the network has nowhere now to go. And the most likely scenario is that the series will end up being cancelled after season five.
"If the network backs down and they bring Phil back, they look weak," one insider explains. "If they stand their ground, the family probably won't move forward and A&E loses their highest rated show." Not to mention,
"No one can really imagine the show going forward without Phil. It would be too weird."
A&E has not responded to request for comment.