In 1973, PBS aired what is widely considered to be the first reality television show, "An American Family." This is a satire of that miniseries.
Documentary filmmaker Albert Brooks (as himself) wants to turn the cameras on an ordinary American family that has no ties to Hollywood or the film industry. He chooses the Yeager clan from Phoenix, Arizona. Led by Warren and Jeannette (Charles Grodin and Frances Lee McCain), the family starts with simple interactions with the crew before quickly realizing they're in over their heads. The family is always aware of where the cameras are and are careful of what they say in front of them. The pressure soon starts to boil over. At his veterinary practice, Warren commits a fatal mistake. The death of a family member has a negative impact on Jeannette. All the while, Albert, the cameramen and the scientists studying the family are constantly hanging around, not allowing the Yeagers to lead the normal life they wanted to. Luckily for them, it blows up in the studio's face.
I love this mockumentary more for what it correctly predicted about the future of reality TV than the actual film itself. Everything from the digital filmmaking to media obsession to the get-rich-quick lifestyle to staged incidents, Albert Brooks accurately predicts what is to come in the future of television. The movie itself strays a bit from the central focus and drags at parts, but it had plenty of tongue-in-cheek hilarity to make up for what it lacked. Watch this and you'll realize what I'm talking about. Grade: A-
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