Here’s a link to the best article that I have read on the subject.
They wanted Americans to laugh at a bunch of backwards Louisiana hillbillies who make duck calls and look down on their Christian values. These people didn’t expect the show to evolve into the monster cash cow that it would later become:
“This is what happened. The whole idea of the show was to parade these nouveau riche Christian hillbillies around so that we could laugh at them. “Look at them,” we were supposed to say. “Look how backward they are! Look what they believe! Can you believe they really live this way and believe this stuff? See how they don’t fit in? HAHAHA”
When the producers saw the way the show was shaping up, different than they envisioned it, they tried to change course. They tried to get the Robertson’s to tone down their Christianity, but to their eternal credit they refused. They tried to add fake cussin’ to the show by inserting bleeps where no cussword was uttered. At best, they wanted to make the Robertson’s look like crass buffoons. At worst they wanted them to look like hypocrites.
They desperately wanted us to laugh at the Robertsons. Instead, we loved them.
A&E wanted us to point fingers at them and laugh at them. But something else happened entirely. Millions upon millions of people tuned in, not to laugh at them, but to laugh with them.
And then we pointed at them. We pointed at them and said things like, “I wish my family was more like them. I wish we prayed together as a family. I wish we were together like the Robertsons.”
By the time this all happened, A&E had a conundrum. They knew who the Robertsons were and what they believe and they still held it in disdain. But they really liked the money. Really liked the money. So they lived with it.
But the progressives whose bank accounts were not growing fatter because of these backward rubes were never inclined to look the other way. They hate the show and they really hate the response to the show. They want it destroyed. …”