Before An American Family (1973), The Real World (1992), Road Rules (1994), True Life (1998), Making the Band (2001), Project Greenlight (2001), American Chopper (2003), American Casino (2004), American Hot Rod (2004), Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County (2004), Dog Whisperer (2004), The Real Housewives of Orange County (2006), The Real Housewives of New Jersey (2009), The Real Housewives of Atlanta (2008), Ice Road Truckers (2007), Jersey Shore (2009) or American Pickers (2010), there was Salesman (1968). Featuring big, beefy, gin-soaked, topcoat-wearing, caddy-wielding bible salesmen like Jamie “The Rabbit” Baker, Paul “The Badger” Brennan, Raymond “The Bull” Martos and Charles “The Gipper” McDevitt. There are some wonderfully candid scenes and it is perhaps one of the most lifelike films (in pace, tenor and tone) that I have ever seen. The Maysles-Zwerin team are very, very patient observers, and they must have literally become flies on the wall to have captured the emotional nudity contained in this very empathetic film. There is no hint of the filmmakers either leading or directing the participating characters into “behaving,” “acting” or “performing for the cameras.” The dramatic (unscripted) rise and fall of many of the characters’ fortunes are in fact in the hands of a higher power and/or fate depending on your personal beliefs. Either way its a powerful reality and enjoyable to watch from a safe distance.
From the Criterion Collection: “A landmark American documentary, Salesman captures in vivid detail the bygone era of the door-to-door salesman. While laboring to sell a gold-embossed version of the Good Book, Paul Brennan and his colleagues target the beleaguered masses—then face the demands of quotas and the frustrations of life on the road. Following Brennan on his daily rounds, the Maysles discover a real-life Willy Loman, walking the line from hype to despair.”