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TV comeback for brave Llanelli family

An inspirational family from the Llanelli area will be returning in a new season of the popular Welsh language version of Gogglebox, it’s been revealed.

During the first series of Gogglebocs Cymru mum Nia Phillips won the hearts of viewers when she opened up about her son’s courageous journey battling spina bifida. 

Single mum Nia from Trefach told of George’s miracle journey and praised independent programme makers Cwmni Da and Chwarel for their inclusive approach to casting. 

Nia, 51, and children George, 20, and Olivia, 16, became firm favourites with the audience in season one for giving their off-the-cuff assessments of the weekly sport – including Welsh footballer Gareth Bale’s hair!

Fans were thrilled after hearing S4C had commissioned a second series of Gogglebocs Cymru after the first run of the ground-breaking show was a smash hit with viewers.

This time the run has been extended from 11 to 15 episodes which will be broadcast in two blocks.

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In addition there are five more groups  – families and friends – this year, giving producers an ever greater spread of opinion across a wide range of programmes.

Starting at 9pm on Wednesday, October 18, the first six shows will be broadcast in October and November before taking a break and returning for a celebrity Christmas version on December 27 and a further eight episodes from February 14 next year, with the programmes being once again narrated by comedian and broadcaster Tudur Owen. 

By the time the new series begins, Gogglebocs Cymru could also be an award winning programme as it has been nominated for a BAFTA Cymru award, with the ceremony taking place the previous weekend.

The show is being made by two Gwynedd-based television production companies, Cwmni Da, in Caernarfon, and Chwarel, from Cricieth.

It is the first time Studio Lambert and Channel 4 have licensed the Gogglebox franchise to another UK-based broadcaster. 

Nia Philips revealed George  was diagnosed with spina bifida within a few days of being born. 

The condition is caused when part of the neural tube – the structure that eventually develops into the baby’s brain and spinal cord – does not develop or close properly. This leads to defects in the spinal cord and the bones of the spine. The condition is usually visible at birth and can cause mild or severe physical and intellectual disabilities. 

Former council worker Nia said George’s  remarkably positive outlook to shone through during the first season. 

“He’s amazing, I’m so proud of him,” she said.

“George is seen sitting down during the programme so the majority of people won’t notice he has a disability. 

“People don’t really realise what goes on behind closed doors – we all live within our own bubbles. The show is fantastic in that sense, it’s really diverse and shows the strength of Wales.

“George is an inspiration. I know he’s mine, but he is just incredible. Everything is a daily struggle for him, but he just gets on with it. He always has a smile on his face.”

Within the first five weeks of his life, George underwent a series of major operations at Cardiff Royal Infirmary including shunt surgery to treat suspected hydrocephalus, spinal surgery and a procedure to treat his perforated bowel.

“When George was born, he had a blister on his back,” said Nia,  “so they took him to the special care unit but told us not to worry. The following morning, the pediatrician came in and he was blue lighted to Cardiff. A bed became available and he had an operation every week for five weeks. 

“We were warned he would be brain damaged and vegetative and would never walk or talk. He has proven them all of them wrong. He doesn’t walk very far and uses the wheelchair in college, but nothing stops him, he’s a real fighter.”

As avid fans of the British reality series, the family were thrilled to be invited to join the Welsh version’s cast and have y become mini celebrities in their local community. 

“We love Gogglebox and have always watched it together. It’s a lovely experience to do this together as a family,” said Nia.

Also delighted to be returning are brothers Huw Williams, 63,  stephen, 58, and Mike, 65, who were brought up in Brynaman and described taking part in series one as one of the best experiences of their lives.

Former British Coal engineer Huw Williams, who now lives in Mynydd Isa, near Mold, has performed regularly in panto with Northop Presents and appeared as an extra on Emmerdale as a vicar.

He was happy that audiences had warmed to the trio’s brotherly banter.

Huw said: “To be honest, it’s a dream come true that people are prepared to pay for me to go down and sit with my brothers and watch the TV with a cup of coffee. It’s great!

“We have a great rapport and are very close. Because of the dynamic we have between us, as soon as we are all together, we revert to Welsh – we feel comfortable with each other, there’s no nerves it’s all natural.”

Series Producer Huw Maredudd, of Cwmni Da, said: “There were some wonderful moments during the first series and some great comments were made about it on social media. 

“The viewing figures were great and there were clear signs that the programmes we featured enjoyed a boost to their viewing figures as well.

“That the first series was so popular was thanks in no small part to the cast and the hard work of the crews and we are hoping the new series will be just as successful.

“We’ll have more families and groups of friends but they won’t all appear in every programme. We’ll be giving them some time off.”

Chwarel director and co-Executive Producer Sioned Wyn said: “Our aim was clear: we wanted to reflect modern Wales. For us, that meant introducing viewers to different types of families and friends and presenting a mixture of regional accents, fluent Welsh speakers and people learning the language.  

“The basic idea of Gogglebocs Cymru is for people to sit down in front of the television and to watch programmes with family or friends and pass comments on what they’re seeing. It’ll be a chance for us laugh, cry and enjoy the programmes with them.”

She added: “Cast members range in age from 15 right up to 80 and span across Wales from Caernarfon to Wrexham, down to Cardiff and the Valleys and across to west Wales. We also have Mike and Carwyn and Mark, originally from Gwynedd but now living in Greater Manchester taking part in the programme.”

S4C’s head of entertainment, Elen Rhys, added: “Following the huge success of series one on S4C, it’s a great pleasure to announce the second series of Gogglebocs Cymru.   

“Once again we’re welcomed to homes across Wales and beyond, with many familiar faces to us, as well as some new additions to the cast  – all giving us their unique slice of life and insight to all things telly.”

The new series of Gogglebocs Cymru will begin its run on S4C on Wednesday, October 18 at 9pm. English subtitles will be available and the programme can also be viewed on S4C Clic, BBC iPlayer and other streaming platforms.

The secrets of how Gogglebocs Cymru is made

Gogglebocs Cymru is filmed as the cast of characters view the week’s chosen programmes.

Producer Huw Maredudd, from Cwmni Da, explained: “A team of researchers comb through the schedules and choose the programmes to be viewed and discussed in that week’s programme. 

“There will be a broad spectrum of programmes all the way from gripping drama series to quiz shows which hopefully will have the cast members shouting the answers at the screen.

“The footage is then edited ready for broadcast on the Wednesday evening. Condensing more than 40 hours of armchair chatter into television gold in three days is no easy feat but it seems to have worked because the programme has been nominated for a BAFTA Cymru award in the best entertainment category,”

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