An American Family

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"Loud Family" redirects here. For the rock band, see The Loud Family. For other uses, see American Family.
Not to be confused with American Family (2002 TV series).
An American Family
The Loud Family 1973.JPG
The Loud Family (Back, from left: Kevin, Grant, Delilah and Lance. Front, from left: Michele, Pat and Bill)
Genre Documentary/Reality
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 1
No. of episodes 12
Production
Producer(s) Craig Gilbert
Editor(s) Pat Cook
Eleanor Hamerow
David Hanser
Ken Werner
Production company(s) WNET New York
Broadcast
Original channel PBS
Picture format 16mm film[1]
Audio format Monaural
Original run January 11, 1973 (1973-01-11) – March 29, 1973 (1973-03-29)
Chronology
Followed by An American Family Revisited: The Louds 10 Years Later
Lance Loud!: A Death in an American Family

An American Family is an American television documentary filmed from May 30 through December 31, 1971[2] and first aired in the United States on the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) in early 1973. After being edited down from about 300 hours of raw footage, the series ran one season of 12 episodes on Thursday nights at 9:00 p.m.

Originally intended as a chronicle of the daily life of the Louds—an upper-middle-class family in Santa Barbara, California—the groundbreaking program (today considered the first "reality" series on American television) documented the break-up of the family via the separation and subsequent divorce of parents Bill and Pat Loud.[3] The documentary inspired spoofs such as the Albert Brooks feature film Real Life (1979).

A year after this programme was broadcast, the BBC in 1974 filmed its own similar 12-episode programme, called The Family, focusing on the working-class Wilkins family, of Reading, Berkshire, England.

The series[edit]

In 2011, The New York Times reflected on some of the controversy the series engendered:

For the viewing public, the controversy surrounding An American Family doubled as a crash course in media literacy. The Louds, in claiming that the material had been edited to emphasize the negative, called attention to how nonfiction narratives are fashioned. Some critics argued that the camera’s presence encouraged the subjects to perform. Some even said it invalidated the project. That line of reasoning, as Mr. Gilbert has pointed out, would invalidate all documentaries. It also discounts the role of performance in everyday life, and the potential function of the camera as a catalyst, not simply an observer.[4]

In 2002, An American Family was listed at #32 on TV Guide's 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time list. It is the earliest example of the reality television genre.

Synopsis[edit]

The Loud family members profiled were:

  • William Carberry (Bill) Loud (born January 22, 1921, Eugene, Oregon)[5][6]
  • Patricia (Pat) Loud (born Patricia Russell, October 4, 1926, in Eugene, Oregon)[3][5][6]
  • Alanson Russell (Lance) Loud (June 26, 1951 – December 22, 2001)
  • Kevin Robert Loud (born January 28, 1953)
  • Grant Loud (born May 5, 1954 in Eugene, Oregon)
  • Delilah Ann Loud (born October 15, 1955)
  • Michele Loud (born October 15, 1957)

The Louds' eldest son, Lance, came out to his family as gay during the course of the series, which was controversial at the time.[7] He is credited as the first openly gay character on television[8] and subsequently became an icon within the LGBT community.[9] (He later became a columnist for the national LGBT newsmagazine The Advocate).

One of the more notable moments of the series was when, after 21 years of marriage, Pat asked Bill for a divorce and to leave the house. Pat's saying to her husband "You know there's a problem" – with Bill's response, "What's your problem?" – was chosen as one of the Top 100 Television Moments by TV Guide.[citation needed]

The series drew over 10 million viewers and considerable controversy. The family was featured in Newsweek on March 12, 1973. The article was titled "The Broken Family".[10]

Legacy and influence[edit]

In 1974, the BBC made its own similar programme, called The Family. The programme consisted of 12 half-hour episodes, showing the daily lives and concerns of the working-class Wilkins family, of Reading, Berkshire, England.

In 1979, Albert Brooks spoofed the series in his film Real Life.[11]

In 1983, HBO broadcast An American Family Revisited: The Louds 10 Years Later.[12]

The series inspired the MTV reality television series The Real World.[11]

In 2003, PBS broadcast the show Lance Loud!: A Death in an American Family, shot in 2001, visiting the family again at the invitation of Lance before his death.[12] The same family members participated in the documentary, with the exception of Grant. Lance was 50 years old, had gone through 20 years of addiction to crystal meth, and was HIV positive. He died of liver failure caused by a hepatitis C and HIV co-infection that year.[13] The show was billed by PBS as the final episode of An American Family.[14]

Subsequent to the showing of A Death in an American Family, Pat and Bill Loud moved back in together,[15] granting one of Lance's last wishes. They live very close to three of their four surviving children—Grant, Michelle and Delilah--and keep in close contact with Kevin and his family, who live in Arizona.[16]

In April 2011, PBS rebroadcast the entire original series in a marathon format on many of its member stations, before the release of the HBO film Cinema Verite, based on the series.[17][18]

On July 7, 2011, most PBS stations presented An American Family: Anniversary Edition, a two-hour film by Alan and Susan Raymond that featured selected moments from the documentary series, in tribute to the 40 years since the series began filming in 1971. It was subsequently released on DVD.[19]

Present[edit]

In 2012, Pat Loud released a book about her son's life called, "Lance Out Loud". Published by Glitterati Incorporated 2012.

Cinema Verite[edit]

HBO premiered Cinema Verite on April 23, 2011, a fictionalized examination of the process of making An American Family. With a script by David Seltzer[20] and under the direction of Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini, the cast includes Tim Robbins as Bill, Diane Lane as Pat, Thomas Dekker as Lance and James Gandolfini as Craig Gilbert.[21]

Credits[edit]

An American Family episode nine end-credits; rerun airdate April 24, 2011, 7 a.m., WNET-TV

References[edit]

  1. ^ Heffernan, Virginia, "Too Much Relationship Vérité", The New York Times, April 17, 2011
  2. ^ "An American Family Screenings", Paley Center for Media, 2011, New York.
  3. ^ a b Cf. Loud, Pat, Pat Loud: A Woman's Story, 1974
  4. ^ Lim, Dennis, "Reality-TV Originals, in Drama’s Lens", The New York Times, April 15, 2011; online; print edition p. AR22, April 17, 2011
  5. ^ a b Cf. episode "Going Back Home"
  6. ^ a b Cf. episode "An American Family: an introduction" narrated by producer Craig Gilbert, January 1, 1973
  7. ^ Columnist Andy Dehnart Reality Blurred.com
  8. ^ PBS.org - An American Family
  9. ^ "Lance Loud". The Independent. April 4, 2002. Retrieved 2008-10-23. 
  10. ^ Ruoff, Jeffrey (2002). An American Family: A Televised Life. University of Minnesota Press. xviii. ISBN 0-8166-3561-7. 
  11. ^ a b Roberts, Michael. "The Unreal World". Denver Westword. March 14, 1996
  12. ^ a b "About the film". PBS.org. Archived from the original on 15 October 2008. Retrieved 2008-10-23. 
  13. ^ "Lance: His life and legacy". PBS.org. Archived from the original on 1 December 2008. Retrieved 2008-10-23. 
  14. ^ "Top 50 TV Shows of All Time From TV Guide". EZ-Entertainment.net. Archived from the original on 14 October 2008. Retrieved 2008-10-23. 
  15. ^ Jensen, Elizabeth (2003-01-06). "Lance Loud's last testament". Los Angeles Times. p. 3. Retrieved 20 March 2011. 
  16. ^ "America's First Reality TV Show". Neatorama. Retrieved 2011-08-26. 
  17. ^ Braxton, Greg, "PBS' KOCE to broadcast landmark 'An American Family'", Los Angeles Times, April 13, 2011
  18. ^ "PBS looking to revisit 1973's 'An American Family'", Associated Press, January 11, 2011
  19. ^ An American Family: Anniversary Edition, PBS
  20. ^ Westal, Bob (2010-07-29). "A chat with Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini, directors of "The Extra Man"". TV.com. Retrieved 2010-08-07. [dead link]
  21. ^ Karpel, Ari (2010-07-25). "A Mash Note to Offbeat New Yorkers". The New York Times. p. AR6. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]