'An American Family' was the original reality TV program

cinema-verite-family.jpg"An American Family" is a 1973 documentary filmed for PBS that followed the Loud family for seven months of their lives, showcasing a real American family living in Southern California, instead of the idealized "Brady Bunch" and "Patridge Family" units seen on TV at the time. It was named one of TV Guide's 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time in 2002.

"Cinema Verite" is a new movie from HBO that chronicles the making of "An American Family." Diane Lane and Tim Robbins star as the Loud family parents and James Gandolfini is Craig Gilbert, the documentary filmmaker who was often at odds with his crew over what was appropriate to shoot.

The title of the HBO movie literally means "truthful cinema" and is a style of documentary filmmaking that is known for taking a provocative stance toward its subjects. It combines naturalistic techniques with editing and camerawork, staged set-ups and using the camera to provoke the subjects. "An American Family" was certainly a frontrunner to the type of programming dominating the TV airwaves in 2011.

Star Gandolfini says of "An American Family," "I think 'An American Family' had good intentions. It started with somebody who wanted to document a family in the '70s; it was an intellectual exercise and it was exceptional. We see where it started out, what were the consequences, and how, years later, it had sadly morphed into today's reality TV."

Screenplay author David Seltzer adds, "'Cinema Verite' is about the secrets we all have, which, if exposed, can change the way we feel about ourselves. It is a human need to be known, and having a camera in front of you brings that out. Maybe too much so. That, unfortunately, is what 'reality television' is all about today."

"Cinema Verite" premieres Saturday, April 23 at 9 p.m. ET on HBO. Below is a side-by-side shot of the "Cinema Verite" family and the real Loud family, plus a behind-the-scenes feature below.


Photo/Video credit: HBO, PBS