The BBC’s documentaries are generally top notch–the polar opposite of current US “edutainment” shows that have distilled down formulas to get the highest eyeballs. It’s little wonder that The Family (above–full) from 1974 would be the precursor to reality TV shows–but that theirs would be more “fly on the wall” and genuinely curious about and relatively impartial towards their subject. An American Family from 1971 is its precursor, but I haven’t checked it out yet.
Compare this style to a parody of what masquerades as reality TV in the states, one that’s blatantly geared towards a perceived audience who apparently incapable of paying attention unless there are gongs or trombones to highlight emotional moments, and chopped up, heavily edited dialog that literally spells out the dialog needed to prove a point.
Check out this British parody of what it’s like to watch an American reality show:
“[The Family] followed the working-class Wilkins family of six (led by Margaret and Terry, who divorced in 1978) of Reading, through their daily lives, warts and all, and culminated in the marriage of one of the daughters, which was plagued by fans and paparazzi alike. The show was the basis for two parodies: Monty Python’s Flying Circus, in their very last episode which aired 5 December 1974, featured a sketch called “The Most Awful Family in Britain 1974”; and Benny Hill, on one of his 1975 specials, did a takeoff called “That Family.” Margaret re-married (like her ex-husband) and became Margaret Sainsbury; she died of a reported heart attack in Berkshire on 10 August 2008, aged 73.”