TV Times - It’s a Big Fat winner

THIS week saw the end of one of Channel Four’s biggest ratings magnets in its 29 year history – My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding.

Over the last five weeks, the documentary series has pulled in increasingly more viewers and now features in several slots on C4’s top 10 highest ever audience figures.

The series was born from a one-off Cutting Edge documentary which focused on unbelievably eloborate weddings between couples in the Irish traveller or gypsy communities.

Now it has been expanded into a five part series, there is the chance to look behind the weddings at the culture of these much-maligned groups.

And this is the reason for the success of the concept.

While the majority of people would be quick to offer an opinion about travellers and gypsies, the cast-iron facts they know about them could be listed on the back of a postage stamp.

The access to these communities the programme makers have been able to get has been incredible, offering remarkable honesty from the people involved.

And shock of shocks, they aren’t actually all monsters.

What has been revealed over the past five weeks has been a remarkably strong dedication to a way of life, despite the influences of the wider world.

Many would say it has been like looking through a window to the past, and this has produced the success.

In truth, we all like to gawp at things that are different.

These communities are not only different, they are living their lives right under the noses of those in mainstream British life.

Problems have arisen, however, with voices from these communities suggesting the true facts have not been given.

Truly shocking practices showcased on the series such as ‘grabbing’ – where teenage boys literally grab a girl to kiss her and secure her hand in a relationship which would lead to marriage – and bare-knuckle fighting have been dismissed as isolated incidents by some sections of the traveller communities.

It must be remembered that all documentaries should be viewed under advisement.

And if such practices have been exaggerated by the makers serious questions should be asked with relations between the communities and the outside world hardly rosy.

The bread and butter of the programmes – the weddings – also happen to be facinating, with crippling size of the wedding dresses and amount of money spent particularly amazing.

Due to the ratings, My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding will inevitably return to our screens.

And there will be plenty quick to grab it.

* I may have initially bemoaned the planned early finish to the baby swap storyline on EastEnders but I’ve done a big switcheroo the further it has progressed.

Encounters between Kat and Ronnie have been a lot more frequent than you would have

expected for such a long running plot and there is no way they would have become easier to watch over time.

While the acting showcased in this storyline is increasingly impressive, it also progressively looks like a foolish idea for a plot.