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TV Family [electronic resource]: Behind the Scenes of the First Reality Television Program

Media Education Foundation
Video; Streaming Video; Online
In 1960, NBC aired the first “reality television” show in American broadcast history. Hosted by Jane Wyatt of Father Knows Best fame, and billing itself as a “new kind of visual reporting,” it was called Story of a Family, and it purported to document the day-to-day lives of the 10-member Robertson family of Amarillo, Texas. While the show has since faded from public memory, media scholars and television historians have long recognized its significance as a precursor to the unscripted television programming that dominates American television today. In TV Family, communication professor and filmmaker Ethan Thompson weaves the recollections of several of the Robertsons featured in the show with commentary from TV historians and cultural critics to offer a fascinating behind-the-scenes account of the making of Story of a Family. The result is an eye-opening look at one of the television industry’s earliest attempts to shape the “reality” of family life in commercially viable ways. Ideal for courses that look at media culture, commercial television, communication, documentary, and television history.
Ethan Thompson
Release Date
Run Time
56 min.
Grade 9+
Variant Title
First reality television program
Produced and Directed by Ethan Thompson; Shot by James Rubin and Megan Bercaw; Edited by Ethan Thompson and Megan Bercaw; Titles and Graphics: Phillip Niemeyer (Northern-Southern); Opening Music: Lela Caldwell; Theme and Score: Carlos Cooper; Sound Editing: Carlos Flores.
[San Francisco, California, USA] : Kanopy Streaming, 2016.
Recording Info
Originally produced by Media Education Foundation in 2015.
Publisher no.
1160014 Kanopy
Related Resources
Cover Image
1 streaming video (56 min.)
Mode of access: World Wide Web.
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