Before there was JWoww, Snooki, or "the Situation", Housewives of [fill in the city of your choice], The Hills, or The Kardashians, there was the Loud family of Santa Barbara California, aka "An American Family".
In 1973, independent filmmakers Alan and Susan Raymond, producers Craig Gilbert, Eduardo Garcia, and PBS/WNETNY, introduced Pat and Bill Loud and their children Lance, Delilah, Kevin, Grant, and Michele to the nation and the world. The Raymonds categorize the work as a documentary, but fans, scholars, and critics deem it to be the first reality series. From May to December 1971, 300+ hrs of 16mm film were shot, then edited down to 12hrs. More than 10 million viewers tuned in. In 1983 HBO aired An American Family Revisited: The Louds 10 Years Later. Eldest son Lance was the most dynamic and controversial of the Louds---he came out during the show. Even though it did not originate on the show, the expression 'out loud and proud' always reminds me of Lance. PBS and the Raymonds reunited with him in 2001 for Lance Loud: A Death In An American Family. Terminally ill at the time, Lance had been a meth addict for 20yrs, was HIV positive, and diagnosed with hepatitis C. Lance died when he was 50.
Nearly 30yrs after the original airing of An American Family, there is HBO's Cinema Vérité The Making Of An American Family. It is a dramatization of what occurred behind the scenes of the doc/reality series. Starring Tim Robbins as the successful [strip mining equipment], charismatic, but flawed patriarch Bill Loud, and Diane Lane as Stanford Grad, and archetype 1970s chic [smoking actually does look glamorous in her hands] matriarch Pat Loud.
Even though the HBO project has a bit of a Droste effect feel [an image of its self within its self multiplied] i strongly applaud Ms Lane and Mr Robbins' performances. Their resemblance to and mannerisms of the Louds are uncanny and they completely capture the 'OMG! what have we done' feeling their real-life counterparts displayed when realizing that the whole world was watching, and not just the mundane, but also the moments they as a family would have rather been left to privacy. "Quod me nutrit me destruit" [what nourishes me destroys me]
If you weren't around for the original An American Family or you were and want to see it again PBS WNET Channel 13 will air a marathon of the series on Saturday April 23rd beginning at 11:00pm. If you're in NYC and you've got a spare 45 bucks burning a hole in your pocket [admission is $15.00 per person, waived for Paley Center members], the Paley Center For Media will have screenings of the series on 3 consecutive weekends beginning Saturday April 30th 2011 at 12:15pm
HBO's Cinema Vérité The Making Of An American Family airs Saturday April 23rd 2011 at 9:00pm Please check your local listings.
UPDATE: WLIW PBS WORLD CHANNEL 164 will also air the original American Family episodes Sunday April 24 2011 beginning at noon.
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