My Big Fat Gypsy Weddings becomes Channel 4's biggest hit in 7 years

Big Fat Gypsy Weddings

On the face of it a documentary about Gypsy weddings doesn't seem to be the type of show to attract massive ratings, and clearly Channel 4 agreed by making only a single one-off episode last year. However fast forward to February 2011 and the programme - which tonight will finish off a second five-part series - is attracting close to 10 million viewers.

The show has become such a massive hit it has become Channel 4's highest rated programme in 7 years and its sixth highest overall, with only a few thousand more tuning into the last ever episode of Friends back in 2004. The third episode in the current series achieved a staggering 9.3 million viewers, and with consolidated figures for Episode 4 and 5 still to be released there's a good chance the show could continue to grow.

In true Channel 4 fashion however the show has not been without its controversies, with Traveller groups criticising the show multiple times for its depiction of gypsies. Deputy chief executive of the Rural Media Company Jane Jackson, a charity which publishes the Travellers' Times said of the programme: "[It's] just not true. It might be true of the particular families in front of the camera, but it's not generally true. They're made to look totally feckless, not really to be taken seriously as an ethnic group."

However the show's executive producer hit back at the critics saying recently: "The problem has been with the media response, particularly from the tabloid press. It's become one of the big cultural phenomena of this part of the year and people are looking for something to write about it, something provocative. Some these articles have upset our contributors which has been disappointing."

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Only today Channel 4 had to release another statement to defend the show, commenting: "The series features a mix of Irish Travellers and Romany Gypsies and the programme makes a clear distinction between these different groups.

"We have intentionally avoided many commonly held stereotypes and attempted to provide a balanced view."

Controversy aside, the question now becomes what happens next for Channel 4 and the show? With Big Brother out of the way and many hours to fill, will we see more series in the near future? Some may argue it's only a matter of time until we see George Lamb hosting 'My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding After Party Live' on E4, based on Channel 4's previous actions of milking any popular show dry as quickly as possible.

The final episode of the current series of Big Fat Gypsy Weddings airs tonight on Channel 4 at 9PM.

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