For the first time cameras are taking viewers into the complex world of the American gypsy culture via two new series —National Geographic Channel’s American Gypsies (debuting later this summer) and TLC’s My Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding (this spring).
Ralph Macchio (Karate Kid) is the executive producer behind American Gypsies, a compelling look at one of Manhattan’s most prominent Gypsy families — the Johns family. Despite the title of their show, the family prefers to be referred to as Roma vs. Gypsies.
“It was difficult to get people to open up on camera because the Roma have been taken advantage of and discriminated against by the gydje (non-Gypsies) for centuries,” said Bobby Johns. However, the 10-part series follows the Johns as they try to preserve their age-old customs while upholding their family’s power in the community and expanding their psychic shops. Viewers will witness the inner workings of the family from secret elder assemblies, arranged marriages at age 18, vicious family feuds (which include dead crows on doorsteps), tarot card readings, an attempt by an exiled Gypsy to be reinstated and more.
In My Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding, TLC takes viewers on a journey into the lives of America’s Gypsy and Traveller communities revealing the hidden culture and over-the-top weddings that occur. TLC press materials note that there are an estimated “one million Gypsies and Travellers throughout the U.S., but most live in complete secrecy, away from the judgment and discrimination that plague their communities.” TLC will go inside their homes and attend their parties to share what it’s like to be living as a Gypsy in America. The series will feature families from West Virginia, Georgia and Maryland, specifically:
• 23-year-old Bill, who is preparing to marry 18-year-old Tamara, who is a non-Gypsy and struggles to become accepted by the local community.
• Nettie and JR married in secret when they were teenagers, and now want to celebrate with their families in a wedding renewal — thrown the traditional, extravagant way.
• At 14, it’s time for Priscilla to start looking for a future husband. Her father plans a big party to bring together the available Gypsy men to see if she can find her true love.
• Chris and Amanda are planning lavish baptism celebrations for four of their children. They must all look their best, and they commission a Swarvoski crystal-crusted pacifier.