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||WNET New York|
|Picture format||16mm film|
|Original release||January 11 –|
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 program of 12 hour-long episodes aired 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 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. Producers conducted 300 hours of filming over seven months in 1971 on a budget of $1.2 million. 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.
The Loud family members profiled were:
- Bill Loud (1921–2018)
- Pat Loud (1926–2021)
- Lance Loud (1951–2001)
- Kevin Robert Loud (born 1953)
- Grant Loud (born 1954)
- Delilah Ann Loud (born 1955)
- Michele Loud (born 1957)
Lance Loud 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 news magazine 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 series inspired a 1977 story arc in the satirical soap opera Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman in which a television crew for The David Susskind Show documents the daily life of the titular character as the "typical American consumer housewife".
In 1983, HBO broadcast An American Family Revisited: The Louds 10 Years Later.
The 1985–88 mockumentary series of TV films The History of White People in America and Portrait of a White Marriage parody the series in following the lives of a dysfunctional white suburban family led by Fred Willard and Mary Kay Place.
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 lived 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. Bill died in July 2018. Pat died in January 2021.
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, which was published by Glitterati Incorporated. Pat Loud died in her sleep from natural causes on January 10, 2021, at age 94.
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" Archived April 28, 2016, at the Wayback Machine, Paley Center for Media, 2011, New York.
- - An American Family Archived May 8, 2016, at the Wayback Machine
- - "Live radio broadcast of March 30, 1973" Archived March 4, 2016, at the Wayback Machine
- 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
- Yardley, William (13 April 2020). "Craig Gilbert, 94, Dies; Created Groundbreaking 'American Family'". The New York Times. Retrieved 1 June 2020.
- "Family Announcement". Facebook.
- Cf. episode "Going Back Home"
- Cf. episode "An American Family: an introduction" narrated by producer Craig Gilbert, January 1, 1973
- PBS.org - An American Family Archived April 16, 2016, at the Wayback Machine
- "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" Archived January 28, 2015, at the Wayback Machine. 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.
- Lueck, Thomas J. (29 December 2001). "Lance Loud, 50, Part of Family Documentary". The New York Times. Retrieved 1 June 2020.
- "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.
- Yardley, William (27 July 2018). "Bill Loud, the Father of TV's 'An American Family,' Is Dead at 97". The New York Times. Retrieved 1 June 2020.
- Braxton, Greg, "PBS' KOCE to broadcast landmark 'An American Family'" Archived March 6, 2016, at the Wayback Machine, Los Angeles Times, April 13, 2011
- "PBS looking to revisit 1973's 'An American Family'" Archived October 11, 2012, at the Wayback Machine, Associated Press, January 11, 2011
- An American Family: Anniversary Edition Archived July 2, 2013, at the Wayback Machine, PBS
- Yardley, William (2021-01-11). "Pat Loud, Reality Show Matriarch of 'An American Family,' Dies at 94". The New York Times.
- Westal, Bob (2010-07-29). "A chat with Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini, directors of "The Extra Man"". TV.com. Archived from the original on 2013-02-04. Retrieved 2010-08-07.
- Karpel, Ari (2010-07-25). "A Mash Note to Offbeat New Yorkers". The New York Times. p. AR6.
- Pat Loud and Nora Johnson. Pat Loud: A Woman's Story. Coward, McCann & Geoghegan, 1974. ISBN 0-698-10578-8.
- Jeffrey Ruoff. An American Family: A Televised Life. University of Minnesota Press, 2002. ISBN 0-8166-3561-7.
- Mark Andrejevic. Reality TV: The Work of Being Watched. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2003. ISBN 0-7425-2748-4; ISBN 978-0-7425-2748-5.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to An American Family.|
- An American Family on WNET's website
- An American Family at IMDb
- An American Family Revisited at IMDb
- Lance Loud!: A Death in an American Family at IMDb
- 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 at The Interviews: An Oral History of Television