June 17, 2008

'Family' Reunion: Legendary '70s Doc Series to Screen at Silverdocs

An American Family, the prototype for the documentary series genre, will screen in its entirety at Silverdocs starting today, Tuesday, through Thursday. The festival will screen four episodes per day, then will screen two follow-up programs: An American Family Revisited: The Louds Ten Years Later (1983) and Lance Loud! A Death in an American Family (2003). Alan and Susan Raymond, the directors of the original series (Craig Gilbert was the producer), as well as the two sequels, will be on hand for a discussion on Saturday.

The 1973 television audience, inured to families like the Cleavers and the Bradys, didn’t quite know what to make of the Louds. They seemed so much like—well, like us. Nor was America prepared to tune in, week after week, to watch an ongoing, multi-part documentary series. But An American Family attracted millions of viewers—and the lives of the Louds turned upside down.

Some have argued that An American Family was the first reality TV program. I would argue that Family was the first vérité series, whose progeny includes such noteworthy work as RJ Cutler’s many projects, starting with American High; the House series (Frontier House, Colonial House, et al); and the recent Carrier. And then there are the reality series: Survivor, The Mole, Big Brother, and their spawn and spin-offs. Today, of course, the reality TV genre, which infiltrated our shores about a decade ago, is still going strong, with its own Emmy category. But the genre is an offspring that An American Family might not want to claim.

To read more, here’s an article from the Washington Post. And for more information about the Silverdocs program, click here.