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HBO’s ‘Cinema Verite’ depicts the beginning of reality programming

Cinema Verite is based on An American Family, a program broadcasted on PBS, now thought to be the first-ever reality show.

The Details

Cinema Verite
Three stars
April 23, 9 p.m. on HBO

These days we think of reality TV as inherently exploitative and trashy, but it wasn’t always that way: The HBO original movie Cinema Verite chronicles the creation of what’s now thought of as the first reality show, with the producers and subjects agonizing over decisions that are now made without a second thought. Broadcast on PBS in 1973, An American Family documented the lives of the Louds, whose seemingly perfect existence crumbled in front of millions of TV viewers. Diane Lane and Tim Robbins play Pat and Bill Loud, and James Gandolfini is the somewhat unscrupulous producer who stirs up their already troubled marriage. Lane is quite good as the steely Pat, who is fiercely protective of her five children, but too much of the movie feels like a sketch of events rather than a fully formed story. Verite is lively and fast-paced enough to be entertaining, although it really just whets your appetite for the original real-life material.

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