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An American Family
Genre Documentary
Directed by Alan Raymond
Susan Raymond
Country of origin  United States
Language(s) English
No. of seasons 1
No. of episodes 12
Producer(s) Craig Gilbert
Editor(s) Pat Cook
Eleanor Hamerow
David Hanser
Ken Werner
Production company(s) WNET New York
Original channel PBS
Original run January 11, 1973 – 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 in 1971 and first aired in the United States on PBS in early 1973. The show was twelve episodes long, edited down from about 300 hours of footage, and chronicled the experiences of a nuclear family, the Louds of Santa Barbara, California, during a period of time when parents Bill and Pat Loud separated and Pat filed for divorce. In 2002, An American Family was listed at #32 on TV Guide's 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time list. It is one of the earliest examples of the "reality television" genre which became very popular in the 2000's.



The seven members of the family were:

  • William Carberry (Bill) Loud (born January 22, 1921)
  • Patricia (Pat) Loud (born October 4, 1926)
  • Lance Loud (June 26, 1951 – December 22, 2001)
  • Kevin Robert Loud (born January 28, 1953)
  • Grant Loud (born May 5, 1954 in Eugene, Oregon)
  • Delilah Ann Loud (born October 15, 1955)
  • Michele Loud (born October 15, 1957)

The Louds' eldest son, Lance, was gay and occasionally wore lipstick and women's clothes. He is credited as the first openly gay character on television and has become something of a gay icon.[1]

One notable moment was when 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 responding "What's your problem?" was chosen as one of the Top 100 Television Moments by TV Guide.

The show drew over 10 million viewers and considerable controversy. The family appeared on the March 12, 1973, cover of Newsweek.[2]


In 1983, HBO broadcast An American Family Revisited: The Louds 10 Years Later.[3]

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.[3] 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 and died of liver failure caused by a hepatitis C and HIV co-infection that year.[4] The show was billed by PBS as the final episode of An American Family.[5]

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 live very close to their surviving children, Grant, Michelle, and Delilah, and keep in close contact with an out-of-state Kevin and his family.

Two of the Loud siblings have worked for the television show Jeopardy! - Grant as Senior Promotions Manager, and Delilah for its distributor, King World.

In popular culture

  • The series was parodied in 1979 movie Real Life, in which a narcissistic filmmaker disrupts the filming of such a television series, instituting changes that he says are "good for the series".
  • In the United Kingdom the format was copied and the name changed to The Family.
  • The show appears in the May 20, 1973 Doonesbury strip.

Further reading

  • An American Family: A Televised Life, by Jeffrey Ruoff. (University of Minnesota Press; 2002) ISBN 0-8166-3561-7
  • Pat Loud: A Woman's Story, by Pat Loud and Nora Johnson. (Coward, McCann & Geoghegan; 1974) ISBN 0-698-10578-8
  • Reality TV: The Work of Being Watched by Mark Andrejevic. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.; 2003) ISBN 0742527484; ISBN 978-0742527485


  1. ^ "Lance Loud". 2002-04-02. Retrieved 2008-10-23. 
  2. ^ Ruoff, Jeffrey (2002). An American Family: A Televised Life. University of Minnesota Press. xviii. ISBN 0-816-63561-7. 
  3. ^ a b "About the film". Retrieved 2008-10-23. 
  4. ^ "Lance: His life and legacy". Retrieved 2008-10-23. 
  5. ^ "Top 50 TV Shows of All Time From TV Guide". Retrieved 2008-10-23. 

External links

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