Craig Gilbert, the creator of “An American Family,” the PBS series that documented the Loud family of Santa Barbara for seven months in 1971 and was a premonition of reality TV, has lived in a one-bedroom apartment on Jane Street for twenty-one years. He has the same patrician hair and beard that he had when he appeared on “The Dick Cavett Show,” thirty-eight years ago, sitting uncomfortably alongside Pat and Bill Loud. On the show, he defended himself against charges that he had exploited the family and betrayed their trust. One recent morning, Gilbert, who is eighty-five, sat at his dining table peering at eight bottles of pills. A home-care nurse hovered nearby with a clipboard. He had just been released from the hospital after accidentally overdosing on Mucinex. Framed on a wall in the living room was an old cartoon from this magazine showing two couples at a dinner table. One woman smiles as she says, “I’m probably old-fashioned, but I felt much more at home with the Forsytes than I do with the Louds.”

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