Cinema Verite: America's First Reality TV Show

Long before Jersey Shore, The Osbournes, or even the very first season of The Real World way back in 1992, there was An American Family, America's first "reality show." Filmed in 1971 and airing two years later on PBS, An American Family followed the Louds of Santa Barbara, a "typical" American family. Cinema Verite, starring Diana Lane and Tim Robbins as Pat and Bill Loud, is HBO's docudrama chronicling the making of the little-known show. What seemed shocking or controversial then -- the Loud's failing marriage, son Lance's sexuality -- seems commonplace now in the current world of unscripted TV. Says The Daily Beast's Richard Rushfield on An American Family as it compares to today's reality TV:
The series looks closer to a work of 1960s cinema neo-realism than anything like what we now know as "reality television." The story drips along at a snail's pace; lingering sequences spend 10 full minutes watching the Louds pack the family station wagon and debate where to put the cooler. Striving in every frame for scientific legitimacy, Gilbert opens the film standing on a hilltop addressing the audience. The Louds, he warns us, "are not the American family, they are simply an American family."

Cinema Verite airs Saturday on HBO at 9/8c.

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