An American Family
|An American Family|
The Loud Family (Back, from left: Kevin, Grant, Delilah and Lance. Front, from left: Michele, Pat and Bill)
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||1|
|No. of episodes||12|
|Production company(s)||WNET New York|
|Picture format||16mm film|
|Original release||January 11, 1973– March 29, 1973|
|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 and first aired in the United States on the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) from January 11, 1973 to March 29, 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.
The groundbreaking documentary is considered the first "reality" series on American television. It was originally intended as a chronicle of the daily life of the Louds, an upper middle class family in Santa Barbara, California but ended up documenting the break-up of the family via the separation and subsequent divorce of parents Bill and Pat Loud.
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. The show included footage, including of intimate family interactions, including an on-camera separation demand from wife Pat to her husband, and the coming-out of one of the children who was gay.
The Loud family members profiled were:
- William Carberry (Bill) Loud (born January 22, 1921, Eugene, Oregon)
- Patricia (Pat) Loud (born Patricia Russell, October 4, 1926, in Eugene, Oregon)
- 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 12, 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. He is credited as the first continuing character on television who was openly gay and subsequently became an icon within the LGBT community. (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.
Legacy and influence
In 1974, the BBC made its own similar program, called The Family. The program consisted of 12 half-hour episodes, showing the daily lives and concerns of the working-class Wilkins family, of Reading, Berkshire, England.
The show was spoofed in a skit on the Thanksgiving 1978 episode of Saturday Night Live. The premise was a family named "the Louds" who were mostly deaf and spoke with raised voices. Humor came in the form of one daughter's boyfriend whose hearing was normal, which subjected him to all conversations in the house, both public and intimately private, and the other daughter's boyfriend who was fine with it all because he directed planes at the airport and just wore his earmuffs when visiting.
In 1983, HBO broadcast An American Family Revisited: The Louds 10 Years Later.
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. 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. The show was billed by PBS as the final episode of An American Family.
Subsequent to the showing of A Death in an American Family, Pat and Bill Loud moved back in together, 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.
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.
In 2012, Pat Loud released a book about her son's life called, "Lance Out Loud". Published by Glitterati Incorporated 2012.
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 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.
An American Family episode nine end-credits; rerun airdate April 24, 2011, 7 a.m., WNET-TV
- Heffernan, Virginia, "Too Much Relationship Vérité", The New York Times, April 17, 2011
- "An American Family Screenings", Paley Center for Media, 2011, New York.
- - An American Family
- - "Live radio broadcast of March 30, 1973"
- Cf. Loud, Pat, Pat Loud: A Woman's Story, 1974
- Lim, Dennis, "Reality-TV Originals, in Drama’s Lens", The New York Times, April 15, 2011; online; print edition p. AR22, April 17, 2011
- Cf. episode "Going Back Home"
- Cf. episode "An American Family: an introduction" narrated by producer Craig Gilbert, January 1, 1973
- Columnist Andy Dehnart Reality Blurred.com
- PBS.org - An American Family
- "Lance Loud". The Independent. April 4, 2002. Retrieved 2008-10-23.
- Ruoff, Jeffrey (2002). An American Family: A Televised Life. University of Minnesota Press. xviii. ISBN 0-8166-3561-7.
- Roberts, Michael. "The Unreal World". Denver Westword. March 14, 1996
- "About the film". PBS.org. Archived from the original on 15 October 2008. Retrieved 2008-10-23.
- "Lance: His life and legacy". PBS.org. Archived from the original on 1 December 2008. Retrieved 2008-10-23.
- "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.
- Jensen, Elizabeth (2003-01-06). "Lance Loud's last testament". Los Angeles Times. p. 3. Retrieved 20 March 2011.
- "America's First Reality TV Show". Neatorama. Retrieved 2011-08-26.
- Braxton, Greg, "PBS' KOCE to broadcast landmark 'An American Family'", Los Angeles Times, April 13, 2011
- "PBS looking to revisit 1973's 'An American Family'", Associated Press, January 11, 2011
- An American Family: Anniversary Edition, PBS
- 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]
- Karpel, Ari (2010-07-25). "A Mash Note to Offbeat New Yorkers". The New York Times. p. AR6.
- An American Family: A Televised Life, by Jeffrey Ruoff. (University of Minnesota Press; 2002) ISBN 0-8166-3561-7.
- Pat Loud: A Woman's Story, by Pat Loud and Nora Johnson. (Coward, McCann & Geoghegan; 1974) ISBN 0-698-10578-8.
- Reality TV: The Work of Being Watched by Mark Andrejevic. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.; 2003) ISBN 0-7425-2748-4; ISBN 978-0-7425-2748-5.
- An American Family on WNET's website
- An American Family at the Internet Movie Database
- An American Family Revisited at the Internet Movie Database
- Lance Loud!: A Death in an American Family at the Internet Movie Database
- Subterranean Cinema: An American Family: The Story of the Louds — articles on the show
- Reviews of the Jeffery Rouff book An American Family: A Televised Life:
- NYU's Fales Library Guide to the "An American Family" DVD collection
- An American Family-related interview videos at the Archive of American Television