The American family, now coming to a computer near you

Earlier this week, HBO premiered Cinema Verite—“a dramatic look at the making of the groundbreaking documentary An American Family.” The film starred Diane Lane and Tim Robbins as Pat and Bill Loud—it was good—and it made us deeply curious about the original American Family, which aired on PBS almost 40 years ago.

Split into 12 hour-long episodes, An American Family followed the Louds, of Santa Barbara, California, for a total of seven months—the series was grittier, and more gripping, than anything else you’d have seen in 1973. (It’s often called the first reality TV show.) And yet until this week, when all 12 episodes appeared on UbuWeb, it was almost impossible to find. (Also up on UbuWeb: the 1983 follow-up, An American Family Revisited: The Louds 10 Years Later, and the sadly inspiring 2003 coda, Lance Loud! A Death in an American Family.) We’re a few hours in, and already addicted.

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