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.

Survivor San Juan Del Sur's dark cloud is lifted

John Rocker

In its third episode, Survivor San Juan Del Sur improved significantly as John Rocker faced off against an Amazing Race villain. But the Exile Island reward challenge remains a drag on the series.


Why Dick Donato left Big Brother 13

Dick Donato

The Big Brother villain known as "Evel Dick" has finally revealed why he left the show during its 13th season: he learned he was HIV positive.

Also: Dick claims he had no choice but to leave the game.

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.