Back when “reality TV” was mostly game shows and beauty contests, PBS introduced a show that tackled family problems on air in a way that had never been done. An American Family was a 12-part series that showed the Loud family dealing with the separation and divorce of parents Bill and Pat.
The year was 1973, and An American Family dealt with subjects that simply weren’t discussed in public — including the coming out of eldest son Lance. In fact, Lance Loud was TV’s first openly gay character.
What was shown in the series was just a fraction of some 300 hours of footage of the Santa Barbara family and the goings on behind-the-scenes were every bit as compelling as what we saw. Now HBO is making a movie, Cinema Verite that dramatizes what went on during the filming.
So, what makes a scripted movie about filming a documentary worth telling you about? Two words: Diane Lane.
Lane has been cast as Pat Loud, the central character in An American Family who provided the show’s first big water-cooler moment when she asked Bill for a divorce on camera. In fact, if you’ve ever said, “What’s your problem?” with just the right inflection, you’re repeating one of An American Family’s catch phrases.
We don’t get to see Diane Lane often enough, IMO, and a return to TV is good news. Let’s cross our fingers that Cinema Verite is the first of many chances to spend an evening with Lane.
Have you ever seen An American Family? Will you watch Lane in Cinema Verite?