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Controversies can sometimes boost interest in a TV show or movie, but that's not the case for A&E's "Duck Dynasty."

The reality show that centers on the Robertson family, who own a very successful duck call business in Louisiana, returned for its fifth season on Thursday with 8.5 million viewers. While that still marks a remarkably high rating for an unscripted cable show, it also signifies a big drop from the show's record-setting fourth season premiere, which attracted 11.8 million viewers.

A&E's problems began In December when patriarch Phil Robertson vulgarly criticized homosexuality and made inflammatory remarks about African-Americans during the Civil Rights era. The network initially suspended Robertson from filming new episodes this year, but then took back that decision after fans protested that Robertson had a right to express his opinion. The issue was not addressed in the premiere, as most of the fifth season had already been filmed when the controversy erupted.

The fourth season finale was watched by 8.4 million viewers, and its recent Christmas special garnered almost 9 million viewers.