Tuesday, July 17, 2012
Like many people my age, I spend too much time wondering whatever happened to Ralph Maccio. He was an Outsider, the Karate Kid (the real one), and turned in a great performance in My Cousin Vinnie. Then he basically disappeared for two decades. And now he is back like every other eighties ex-pat, via reality television. Thankfully it is not in front of the camera like the painful to sit through Scott Baio is 45… and Single. Instead he is producing American Gypsies (answering the question, what ethnicity and / or occupation could reality television possibly exploit next?).
Honestly I did not know much about gypsies aside from what I learned from Stevie Nicks. Even then I learned more about lightning then the gypsy culture. American Gypsies follows an extended gypsy (or Romani if you want to be less offensive) family featuring five brothers and their fifteen kids (with two grandkids on the way). Despite being very a very insular culture (homeschooled, arranged marriage complete with a dowry and their own court) they look assimilated and would not be able to pick them out of a lineup. If face they look like they could have been a Jersey Shore feeder family.
The heart of the show are two brothers, Nicky is the traditionalist who wants to make sure every of their 5,000 year old traditions continue. While Bobby wants to become more America even allowing his daughters to take acting classes even though associating with Gaje (non-Romani; naturally one of the third generations on the show is secretly dating a Gaje) is shunned upon. This conflict seems to be the heart of the show and Nicky is very vocal about the kids taking acting classes. Granted every time Nicky complains about this I want to yell at the television, “Dude, shut up, you are on a reality show.”
Aside from a different ethnicity to exploit, American Gypsies does not add much new to the docu-series genre. There is fighting be it verbal or physical (the brothers even throw punches in a hospital sometime in the season) and shameless self-promotion (even though the daughters in the acting class have less charisma than the average Kardashian and even less of a worth ethic). It is a bit disappointing that even though the family is in the physic business, which is the most interesting part of the family, the actual business is rarely shown in the first two episodes and no one ever exhibits the gifts they claim to be bestowed upon them. But If you are fan of docu-series, American Gypsies will probably have enough to pull you in. But if you hate the genre, the show will not do anything to change your mind.
American Gypsies airs Tuesdays at 9:00 on the National Geographic Channel. You can download American Gypsies on iTunes including the first episode which is free as I write this. Check out a preview below: