Reality TV's most dysfunctional families: A timeline

Photo by: PBS
American TV Families: 1973-2011-
In 1973, the first made-for-tv social experiment was launched in the Santa Barbara home of the Loud Family. For seven months, cameras followed a mainstream middle class married couple and their four kids. But by the time the show aired, their marriage had dissolved and their kids were celebrities. At the time, that level drama was unexpected and captivated 10 million views.

Today, family dysfunction is just part of the reality formula. Part of the reason, is that every family has problems if you spend enough time probing them, but the camera adds 10 pounds to the baggage. Make it 20 and you've got a hit.

This weekend, HBO is premiering a biopic about the first reality family, and the original series will re-air in its entirety on PBS. As the first of it's kind, it's more documentary than reality show. If it were made now, it would probably be called "Living out Loud" one of the kids would release a hit single on itunes, and the drama that unfolded would be turned up to 11. Over the course of 40 years, family reality has gotten crueler and more lucrative. These days it barely resembles real families at all.