The Osbournes

by The Macleod

The Osbournes. R-rated TGIF. Reality sitcom. Call it what you will the show is a television phenomenon if ever I’ve seen one. For most TV viewers in my demographic Ozzy and his brood are compulsively watchable. Why? For me it was probably because of the weird contradiction at the center of the show: That Ozzy Osbourne, former front man for Black Sabbath, self-proclaimed “Prince of Darkness” and graduate of the Keith Richards School of speech therapy, could be a happily married family man. It really is remarkable to see Ozzy, survivor of the age when rockers truly rocked and lived their lives as hard as possible (Gene Simmons, Dave Mustaine anyone?), doling out fatherly advice to his bratty kids like Danny Tanner. The Simpsons collided with Mötley Crue and MTV is televising the wreckage. On my first viewing of the show I was laughing out loud. Ozzy hobbled around his mansion, dogs shat on the rug, that rascal Jack got in trouble on a school trip, Kelly presumably bitched about something, and amid it all Sharon tried to maintain some semblance of sanity. Even with a patriarch who works out in a “Hippie Killer” t-shirt they seem much more normal than most families (certainly my own) once one looks past the celebrity.

I watched more and more. Every Monday night, all summer long. Spats with neighbours, unwanted houseguests, and celebrity sightings (Elijah Wood? Where the hell did he come from?) The madcap hijinks never seemed to end with this sitcom family. I half expected Urkel to bust through the front door for God’s sake. I then returned home from a summer abroad, able to watch the episodes all over again uncensored on CTV. And watched I did, but the laughs didn’t come. These were the same episodes I had seen before, so why didn’t I find it funny anymore?

It was then that I realized the show’s main flaw, one that usually kills most traditional sitcoms: The Osbournes is a one-joke production. The joke is Ozzy Osbourne as a family man, and apparently what makes it edgier than most other shows is the swearing. Each episode may have its little moments, such as Ozzy telling Kelly off for getting a miniscule tattoo, but really how funny is it to hear a man complain about his pets’ bowel movements week after week? This then exposes the show’s deeper problem: These are not interesting people. Do they have anything interesting to say? Definitely not. This is hardly the Algonquin Round Table we’re talking about here. These are people who seem to do nothing more than sit around in pajamas, swear at each other, watch visitors come and go at all hours…wait, I’ve seen this show before. It’s called My Living Room. Of course the sad thing is that the eldest Osbourne child, Amy, 18, who opted not to participate in the show, is probably the most interesting child by a mile. But instead all the audience has to watch are two spoiled, whiny rich kids. Fascinating. If I wanted to see that I’d be at Queens University.

So in lieu of any interesting characters is the language supposed to set it apart from the other crap that’s out there? Hearing people tell each other to fuck off may have been pretty risqué when I was six, but I can just wait until Christmas dinner with my family to hear it now. Chronic swearing simply doesn’t hold any kind of “oooh!” factor for me anymore. I have just as much of a potty mouth as the next person, and yet to me there’s just something not right about seeing a family talk to each other like that. It’s not funny, it’s disturbing.

This all begs the question, Why is The Osbournes as popular as it is? Well, because it’s original. Different is good, original is good, and The Osbournes is both. There isn’t anything else like it on TV and audiences grow very tired very quickly of the same old formulaic junk. But this isn’t to say it makes the show any better. I think it would have worked much better as simply a mini-series instead of wearing thin over the course of an entire TV season. It may be different this year when Sharon’s battle with cancer takes center stage, adding some much needed feeling and emotion to the show (sorry Kelly, your singing “career” will have exhausted its fifteen seconds by then). But beyond that The Osbournes will simply serve as a reminder that even celebrities can lead very boring lives.

  • The Osbournes
  • by The Macleod
  • Published on January 1st, 2003

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