Now nearly everyone not only expects to be on television at some point, but also knows what kind of behavior's expected when the cameras roll.
Not that the producers of "American Gypsies" (who include the original "Karate Kid," Ralph Macchio) had to teach the Johns boys how to shout. I'm guessing that, like members of most large families, they learned that one early.
But "reality" TV thrives on conflict and it's Bobby Johns, the patriarch's namesake and seemingly the most assimilated of the brothers, who's precipitating most of it in the first couple of episodes.
At first, it appears he's merely flouting the tradition that would make his 14-year-old daughter, Amanda, a bride long before her 17th birthday and a full-time for-tune-teller maybe even before that.
"In the gypsy culture, every woman's a psychic," insists Amanda's grandmother, Tina, who's getting ready to pass along some of the secrets of the trade when Bobby suggests his daughters might have other ambitions.
"I think I want to try acting," says Amanda, whose father's so eager to support her ambition that the next thing we know, he's signed both her and her sister, Vivian, up for acting lessons and is scheduling appointments to get head shots and meet with agents, even as the rest of his family fumes.
Could he be auditioning for a role himself on a show about stage dads?
Where "American Gypsies" shines — and it really does shine here and there — is in the glimpses we get of the internal system of justice that's developed among a people who don't trust government, and family rituals like the "red-dress ceremony" with which the Johns family welcomes its newest member.
Unlike TLC's "My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding," Bobby Johns told reporters in January, "this is much more than just a wedding. This is about our family, our culture, our beliefs, our traditions. You're going to get a peek behind the curtain that you've never been able to see before."
Contact Ellen Gray at 215-854-5950 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow on Twitter @elgray. Read her blog at EllenGray.tv.