While placing Craig Gilbert's innovative series in the context of 1970s nonfiction film and television, Jeffrey Ruoff tells the story behind An American Family from conception to broadcast, from reception to long-term impact. He reintroduces us to the Louds as intimate details of their daily lives, from one child's dance recital to another's gay lifestyle to the parents' divorce proceedings, unfold first before the camera and then before American viewers, challenging audiences to think seriously about family, marital relations, sexuality, affluence, and the American dream. In the documentary's immediate impact-on both producers and viewers of media-Ruoff uncovers the roots of new nonfiction forms including confessional talk shows like Oprah, first-person documentary films like Ross McElwee's acclaimed Sherman's March, and reality TV programs such as The Real World, Survivor, and Big Brother.
A comprehensive production and reception study, Ruoff's work restores An American Family to its rightful, pioneering place in the history of American television.
Jeffrey Ruoff is a film historian, documentary filmmaker, and assistant professor of film and television studies at Dartmouth College. He is co-author (with Kenneth Ruoff) of The Emperor's Naked Army Marches On (1998).
Table of Contents
|Introduction: Recasting Documentary||xv|
|Part I||Making an American Family|
|1||"A Real View of Middle-Class Life"||3|
|2||Filming the Louds, Editing the Footage||24|
|Part II||A Closer Look at an American Family|
|3||"A Bastard Union of Several Forms"||53|
|4||Opening Night: Episode One||64|
|5||Sound in Documentary: Listening to the Louds||77|
|Part III||The Reception of an American Family|
|6||Publicity Sets the Stage, Reviews Steal the Show||95|
|7||The Louds Strike Back||120|
|Conclusion: The Children of An American Family||130|