Series Premiere: American Gypsies
|Even thought this says Spring 2012, it premieres 17 July 2012.|
Premieres 17 July 2011 at 9 p.m. If you thought they only told fortunes, then you don’t know Gypsies. Meet the Johns family: five brothers, including a burly middle-aged businessman with big dreams and a hot-headed younger brother, all working to carry on the legacy of their father; an ailing patriarch; a fortunetelling matriarch; a teenage girl with an eye on an acting career; a teenage boy dating a member of a rival family; and a young man who seems hardly ready to take on the family’s business.
The Johns family is one of Manhattan’s most prominent Romani, or Gypsy, families. In National Geographic Channel’s new 10-part series American Gypsies, from Executive Producer Ralph Macchio and Stick Figure Productions, cameras document their struggle to uphold their standing in the community and expand their psychic shop empire amid constant family strife and drama.
With a premiere Tuesday, July 17, at 9PM ET/PT, NGC goes inside the Johns family as American Gypsies gives an intimate portrayal of a family steeped in honor, living by their own rules and traditions, and trying to capture their version of the American dream. In each episode, witness a family trying to modernize and adapt to American ways while still clinging to their heritage. Get a firsthand look inside elder assemblies, arranged marriages between teenagers, the unique court system where disputes are settled, and auspicious tarot card readings.
We’ll also see an investment opportunity eagerly eyed in the scrap-yard business, family uproar over the homeschooled teenagers who take an acting class, the warding of evil from a new great-grandchild and the search for the perfect new psychic shop location.
“This untapped subculture that exists right under our feet will be exposed to cameras for the first time as they struggle to uphold their Gypsy traditions while reaching for the American dream of today’s generation,” said Macchio. “It has character elements of ‘The Godfather’ and ‘The Sopranos’ in its passionate family dynamic.”
Stereotypes abound about the Romani people. They are often portrayed in movies as swindling, traveling, dirty, hooped-earring women holding a crystal ball, but the reality is very different. The Romani, as they are known historically, or Roma, have a rich cultural heritage, with their own language, religion, education, laws and courts that have remained shrouded in secrecy … until now.
We’ll see it all as Bobby, with his oldest brother Eric, his biggest rival Nicky, and younger brothers Joey and Jack open up and tell their story for the first time.
“We’ve existed for thousands of years without a country, a place to call home, and we’re still one of the closest-knit communities in the world,” says Bobby. “To uphold these traditions, community and family ties means everything to me; it’s in my blood. I do feel our thousand-year-old culture can be preserved while we move forward into the modern world.”
With four brothers and five children, Bobby insists that family is everything. Bobby’s got respect on the street, connections in the community and is always looking for money-making opportunities. And while he respects his culture, he’s not above bending the rules. Now, get to know some of the other members of the Johns family:
Bob Sr.: patriarch and head of the family, who is recovering from a stroke. “I’m the boss, I do what I want, and you follow me!”
Tina: headstrong matriarch expounding tradition with rituals bringing good luck and warding off of evil. She tells her granddaughter, “In Gypsy culture, every woman is psychic.”
Eric: the oldest of the five sons and the next in line to head the family. “Bobby and Nicky is always arguing and fighting. But they seem to forget that I’m the oldest and they got to come to me. No matter what.”
Nicky: Bobby’s younger brother. He has a short fuse and is always fighting. “There’s no gray area for me. There’s black or white. What I say is what I feel, and that’s it.”
Chris: Bobby’s oldest son, who is married to Samantha. A traditionalist, he wants to follow in the footsteps of his bapo, or grandfather.
Amanda: Bobby’s 15-year-old daughter, wondering if the traditional Romani life is the right thing for her. “I don’t want to be like all the other women [psychics] in my family. Even if I have the gift, I don’t want it.” She wants to try acting.
Val: Bobby’s nephew, who has been secretly dating a gaje, non-Romani, girl (relationships with gaje are traditionally off-limits).
“If I die, stick together, don’t fight,” says Bob Sr. from a hospital bed. “Stay Gypsy. Everyone will respect you. I’m fighting for this family … you understand that? You’s got to keep it, my five sons.”
The Johns family is compelling and colorful, passionate in their beliefs, strong-minded in their decisions, respectful of family and tradition, and trying to grab a piece of the American dream … one successful fortunetelling shop after the next.
Premiere episodes include:
American Gypsies: Rivals at War
Premieres Tuesday, July 17, at 9PM ET/PT
In the season premiere of American Gypsies, we meet the Johns, an extraordinary Romani, or Gypsy family, one of Manhattan’s most prominent. Patriarch Bob Sr.’s health is failing, prompting rival brothers Nicky and Bobby to start battling for leadership. Clinging to his heritage, Nicky wants to stick to the age-old tradition and rules, but Bobby would like to modernize and adapt to American ways, as he allows his daughters to take part in local acting classes. When a rival family encroaches on Nicky’s psychic shop turf, he calls his four brothers into a violent confrontation, landing the whole family in Romani Court, a unique court system where disputes are settled.
American Gypsies: The Gloves Come Off
Premieres Tuesday, July 24, at 9PM ET/PT
Bobby clashes with his younger brother Nicky when he tries to open a new psychic shop without their father’s blessing. Bobby’s daughter-in-law goes into premature labor, and the race is on for Grandma Tina to complete an all-important Romani ritual for the newborn. Bobby does his best to support his daughters Amanda and Vivian in their acting dreams, but all does not go according to plan. Finding out what Bobby has been up to, Nicky boycotts his brother’s shop opening, choosing a night out drinking alone instead.
American Gypsies: Sex, Lies, and Audiotape
Premieres Tuesday, July 31, at 9PM ET/PT
During a night out, the Johns family men encounter their rival Tommy Gigolo. Soon after, a series of misfortunes befall the brothers—which they believe lead back to Tommy. Terrified of one day inheriting his father’s poor health, Bobby goes to a gaje (non-Romani) doctor for a checkup and receives disturbing news. He attempts to correct his health issues by engaging in extreme fitness training. In the meantime, Eric’s son, Val, feels torn between following his family’s orders to marry a Romani, or Gypsy, girl and staying with his gaje girlfriend Katie. Bobby's son, Chris, brings Val on a “boys’ trip” to Miami in hopes of helping him forget about Katie.
American Gypsies: South Beach Invasion
Premieres Tuesday, August 7, at 9PM ET/PT
The Johns brothers travel to Florida. A cash-strapped Nicky pushes his luck by trying to open a new psychic shop in South Beach, causing friction with rival Romani, as well as his wife Christine. Bobby struggles with single life on a night out with his brother Jack. Back in New York, the brothers get news that their father Bob has been rushed to the hospital. Bob Sr. has suffered from a stroke and needs emergency surgery. When the issue of consent divides the family, a fight breaks out between Nicky and Bobby, leaving their father’s life hanging in the balance.
American Gypsies is produced by Stick Figure Productions and Executive Producer Ralph Macchio for National Geographic Channel. Executive producers are Steven Cantor, Daniel Laikind, Terry Clark and Ralph Macchio. For NGC, executive producer is Allan Butler, and executive vice president of programming is Michael Cascio.
For more information, visit www.natgeotv.com/americangypsies.