January 6, 2011 | 2:42
Jan. 6, 1980: Years before there was MTV’s “The Real World” (or MTV, for that matter), there was Craig Gilbert’s “An American Family,” the story of the Loud family of Santa Barbara, which aired on PBS in 12 one-hour episodes in 1973. During what is now considered the first reality TV show, oldest son Lance Loud announced that he was homosexual and Pat Loud ordered her husband, Bill, out of the house because of his infidelity.
Margaret Mead called Gilbert's approach "As important in the history of human thought as the invention of the novel" but critics were less enthusiastic, saying that all the Louds seemed to do was lounge around their swimming pool. Several members of the family criticized Gilbert for selective editing that trivialized them.
A follow-up film was made in 1983 and a 2001 film explored the life of Lance Loud, who died in 2001 at the age of 50.
Note to Times copy desk: 1980 - 1973 = 7, not 8.