Cinema Verite takes on An American Family

by Laurie Henzel

Before The Real World, Horrible Housewives or Jersey Shore Jerks, there was An American Family. Back in the early 70’s, the idea of reality TV was born when a documentary filmmaker decided to ask the Loud family from Santa Barbara California, if he could film their daily lives and air it on PBS. Anyone who grew up in the 70s will remember the long, sometimes fascinating, sometimes boring, grainy episodes of American Family that aired, and the two characters that really stood out were Lance, the flamboyantly gay eldest son, and his mother, Pat. Pat was a dead ringer for Jackie O, and her relationship with Lance, in the face of her crumbling marriage, made for some amazing TV.

Lance and Pat- (personal style icon!) at the Chelsea

This Saturday night, HBO will be showing their version of the story of the Louds, and I cannot wait. Diane Lane looks exactly like Pat, and I only hope Thomas Dekker can capture some of the exuberance that was Lance. In the original, Lance moves to New York to find his tribe, and lives at the Chelsea Hotel, and subsequently formed a punk band called the Mumps. He eventually moved back to LA, and I had the pleasure of befriending him in the early 90s. Lance was one of those people that you just fell in love with the minute you met, after one hour of knowing him, he invited myself and my husband to dinner at his moms place! Sadly Lance passed away in 2001 from AIDs related illnesses. I hope this version of the story does his family right, and portrays them as the loving family that Lance remembered. If you’ve never seen An American family, PBS will show all 12 episodes this weekend and they are airing the episodes at the Paley Center, next weekend.  

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