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Shelley Vision; Caught up in a Big Fat Gypsy dilemma.

Byline: JIM SHELLEY

BIG Fat Gypsy Weddings made great play out of the fact that it had unprecedented access to a world and a culture that most of us know almost nothing about.

This was obviously part of its appeal for the six million people who have been watching it, most of whom seem to have been talking about nothing else ever since - to me.

What, though, did we really learn? To buy shares in make-up and nylon mostly - if wedding dresses like Sam's were anything to go by. It weighed 15 stone!

That's like walking down the aisle with half of Chris Moyles clinging to your back. Not a pretty thought.

BFGW is Channel 4's biggest hit for years and something of a phenomenon.

The travellers at the heart of the series make pretty compulsive viewing.

They are an unusual combination of open and private; oldfashioned and modern; appealing and off-putting.

As much as the programme talks about the gypsies' traditions, you can't quite get rid of the suspicion that we were mostly being asked to gasp at how tasteless they were.

The men are keeping the mullet haircut and string vest look alive.

The girls - even very young ones - dress like hookers, even at their weddings (in fact, ESPECIALLY at their weddings).

Although the programme maintains "the modern world is threatening to destroy their unique culture", there's not a lot of "culture" on view.

"It's very rare nowadays to find a traveller who travels," said one gypsy affiliate, begging the question whether they can really be called travellers.

This is one of those rare shows where you find yourself changing your mind back and forward while you watch.

A lot of us are probably watching to tut-tut at the sight of the eight-year-old girls in their glittery crop tops, tiaras, spray tans and lipstick dancing in a manner that would make Christina Aguilera blush. They are also spirited, articulate and sweet-natured.

The way they dance, the young kids seem more influenced by watching Rihanna and Lady Gaga than their gypsy roots. Then again, the teenagers are forbidden from drinking or swearing and are all very sweet and romantic.

The programme obviously wants us to be on their side - packing it with emotive shots of the bulldozers moving in, although you wonder how many of us would want one of their sites next door.

A lot of their "ways" are highly problematic. It's a deeply sexist society with girls barred from approaching boys and instead waiting to be "grabbed" (virtually forced to kiss their admirers).

The children are routinely taken out of school and the women restricted into staying at home.

Still you'd think there is more than enough wasteland in this country to accommodate them.

There's no under-estimating the spirit they show in the face of society's antipathy.

"We might have a party on the side of the motorway, the next time you see us," roared one as yet another camp was destroyed.

In a way it's a shame the programme chose to concentrate on the weddings, and in particular, their garish, demented frocks, rather than show more insight into these issues.

There was rather too much time spent on Sam's dress - just because it was too big for her to fit through the door or even down the aisle and had battery-illuminated butterflies "I don't know if it's safe," said the woman who made it, brandishing a fire extinguisher. "They could end up like Michael Jackson."

In the end, even the programme couldn't make up its mind how serious to take its subject.

The jokey soundtrack made clowns out of the people it was asking us to care about.

One of our dinosaurs is missing

"TAKE a bow, son. Take a bow."

Congratulations to Andy Gray who scored the most spectacular own goal in broadcasting and got a red card from arguably the best job in television: being paid to watch the best football matches around the world and telling us what we could all see with our own eyes.

It was appropriate he dragged Richard Keys (the monkey to his organ grinder) down with him.

I doubt if ONE person thought, I'm not going to watch Sunday's match now Andy Gray or his fawning little lackey Richard Keys are not on. Anyway, they've gone now - Gray taking his stupid Magic Marker with him, Keys to spend more time with his monkey nuts.

Just a bit of banter boys...

Silent killer for Hungary

YOUR heart went out to the Hungarian tourist board watching Silent Witness.

Forensic scientist Harry Cunningham went all Dirty Harry as he discovered Budapest was over-run with gangs of tattooed skinheads, corrupt cops and baby traffickers. (Cancel that call to EasyJet.) The three maverick forensic scientists set a new Personal Best for ridiculousness.

It turned out that Harry had faked his own death and it was his hooded figure pumping bullets into his assailant's mouth before torching the corpse (a Hungarian tradition apparently). Scooby-Doo's got nothing on them.

TV is edukashiunal

Three quarters of the coalition cabinet are millionaires. One third of Labour's front bench went to Oxford or Cambridge. There are eight Old Etonians in the Cabinet.

David Cameron, George Osbourne and Nick Clegg went to schools that now charge higher than the average wage.

(Posh and Posher: Why Public School Boys Run Britain).

Wit of the week

Frank Gallagher (smoking spliff): "pounds 9.99 return! Liverpool-Amsterdam. How is that not entrapment?!!"

Jackson (holding bag of weed): "They're the most chilled race in Europe."

Frank: "What, Scousers?!!"

(Shameless).

Will you tell her or shall I?

Billie Piper says she's going to stop making Secret Diary of a Call Girl before it starts "scraping the bottom of the barrel... You wouldn't want to exhaust it to t h e p o i n t o f ridiculousness and seediness." Indeed.

You don't say

"Careful, those teeth are sharp."

Inuit fisherman as they catch a Greenland shark (Human Planet).

Bad news of the week

"Just think. Roxy might be pregnant with your child."

Syed to Christian (EastEnders).

I'd rather not.

D'OH!!

"What class am I? I'm a man of the people. Vox populi, vox dei." -Jacob Rees-Mogg, Tory MP, old Etonian, and son of Sir William Rees-Mogg.

(Posh and Posher: Why Public School Boys Run Britain)

Stop the madness

"Living mannequin Mark Clay is an IT consultant by trade. But his first love is to dress up in Health & Safety clothing and remain motionless over extended periods of time."

-Michael Buerk (Louie Spence's Showbusiness). Well, we've all done it.

Too much information

"Our child was conceived in Peter Jones' bed."

(James Corden, Chatty Man). That's not a bed FROM Peter Jones, but Peter Jones' pad in LA.

The NHS today

"Nurse, wooden spoon please."

Dr. Elliot Hope performs unorthodox vascular surgery (Planet Holby).

Programme title of the week

Pleasure & Pain With Michael Mos e ley (BBC1).

Surely Pleasure & Pain with Max Moseley? Philosophical doc of the week "It's always later than you think."

Dr. Leo Dalton (Silent Witness).

Motto of the week

"Well hellfire, save matches, f*** a duck and see what hatches."

New judge Steven Tyler gets into Louis Walsh mode (American Idol).

Fashionista of the week

"I've always had a soft spot for men in uniform. I think they look so romantic. Except traffic wardens. They never look smart do they? I've never been one for epaulettes and a pullover."

Julie (Coronation St) She's not wrong.

Will you tell him or shall I?

"It's a rollercoaster of emotions being famous and you have to be very strong. But I was born for this."

Andrew Stone (Louie Spence's Showbusiness). Imagine if he ever was.

Nurse Jackie So good it hurts

The Killing Thrilling

Human Planet Come to snowy Greenland

Dermot O'Dreary (National Television Awards) No wonder he didn't win Best Presenter

Skins Trying so hard to be cool is uncool

Christian & Roxy (EastEnders) Kill Me Now

GAG OF THE WEEK

"These control orders do cause potential bombers a lot of stress. Some of them are suicidal."

-Jimmy Carr (10 O'Clock Live)

"We can never love humans without bringing suffering upon them."

- Bill Compton (True Blood). And as a 170- year-old vampire, he's been around so long, he should know.

AND ON THAT BOMBSHELL..

email Your tv views to: shelleyvision@mirror.co.u

FOR MORE JIM SHELLEY, GO TO www.mirror.co.uk/ shelley

CAPTION(S):

HITCHED Sam in her pink dress that was lit by illuminated butterflies
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jan 31, 2011
Words:1413
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