An American Family’s 35th anniversary was this week

On Tuesday, with the TV-watching world focused on the debut of American Idol 7, a significant anniversary passed: It was the 35th anniversary of the debut of An American Family, the show that inspired The Real World, which in turn inspired most of what we now consider to be reality television. The series debuted Jan. 15, 1973, and while shot like a documentary, it was essentially a 12-hour soap opera starring a real family.

While Amazon has a product page for a DVD of the series, one has not yet been released, nor has there been any announcement of an impending DVD release. However, there is a fantastic book about the show, An American Family: A Televised Life; Jeffrey Ruoff’s detailed look at the series isn’t a substitute for watching it, but does explain all you’d want to know about its production and reception.

Five years ago, just before the series’ 30th anniversary, PBS aired a documentary about the final years and death of Lance Loud, one of the show’s stars. As Thomas Heald reminds us, the show also followed “parents Bill and Pat and their kids Grant, Kevin, Lance, and Michelle,” and during one episode, Pat told Bill that she wanted a divorce, captivating the nation.

The Sing-Off loses its star

Ben Folds

NBC's super-fun December a capella singing competition The Sing-Off is returning, but without its star judge, Ben Folds, and only as a two-hour special. Those are really depressing changes for a series that proved itself to be a super-fun show when it returned last December.


A film director talks about becoming a reality TV character

Anna Martemucci

What is it like to have your life turned into reality TV? Director Anna Martemucci, one of the two directors featured on Starz' exceptional reality series, talks about that, the competition, and her collaboration with her husband and brother-in-law.

Plus: How the show's producers tried to keep the $250,000 competition fair.

about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.