The Washington Post

PBS will air ‘An American Family’ anniversary edition

The Loud Family in “An American Family.” In 1973, 10 million viewers tuned in to PBS to watch the Louds become the first reality TV family in history. (Courtesy of Alan Raymond)

Almost four decades after PBS first aired a television documentary about a nuclear family in Santa Barbara, Calif., named the Louds, reality television shows like Survivor and American Idol have us all glued before the small screen.

“An American Family” was one of the first in the reality genre. Over 12 episodes in 1973, the program captured the sensitive moments of Bill and Pat Loud’s marriage and separation, and the escapades of their five children, including the New York lifestyle of their gay son, Lance Loud.

The controversial show riveted the country over the course of its three-month run, drawing in a record 10 million viewers a week.

On July 7, PBS will air a two-hour version of the series, which has not been seen nationally in more than 20 years. The edited “An American Family: Anniversary Edition” is intended to “provide a fresh perspective to viewers who may have missed the original series airing,” according to PBS. Filmmakers Alan and Susan Raymond, who worked on the original production, are behind the adaptation.

Unlike most documentaries of the time period, “An American Family” had no host or interviews, and very little voice-over narration. The filmmakers sought to portray the everyday life of the Louds without embellishment, a style called cinema verite.

This rebroadcast of “An American Family” comes several months after HBO’s fictionalized account of the making of the series, “Cinema Verite.”

Below, watch a scene from the original “An American Family,” in which Mrs. Loud and her son discuss how she brought him up:

Watch the full episode. See more An American Family.

And watch Grant and Kevin Loud and their band mates as they rehearse for a Santa Barbara High School pep-rally performance:


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