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Each episode shows us scenes from the real life of a typical multimillionaire middle-aged heavy-metal rock star with two teenagers, a shopaholic wife that's the real head of the house, a large stable of unruly pets, and some of the many people they meet up with. Events include teen daughter Kelly secretly getting a tattoo; run-ins with noisy neighbors; and preparations for a concert tour. Written by
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Breaking every rule of the usually straight-faced, serious, ego-nourishing reality series, "Osbournes" takes the genre and has real fun with it.
Network: MTV; Genre: Reality/Comedy/Documentary; Content Rating: TV-PG (for strong language and suggested profanity, adult content, crude humor and suggested drug use); Available: DVD: Classification: Neo-Classic (star range: expanded 1 - 5);
Seasons Reviewed: Complete Series (4 seasons)
In "The Osbournes" MTV cameras follow the real-life family of heavy metal icon Ozzy Osbourne which includes his ballsy, eccentric wife Sharon and their bratty, but strangely endearing children, Jack and Kelly, as they move into a new Beverly Hills home and proceed to go about the daily minutia of their lives. As the show proceeds we see Ozzy on tour, Kelly promoting her debut album, Jack heading in and out of rehab, Sharon behind-the-scenes of her short-lived talk show and the general family squabbles and disarray between them.
There may be a generation gap when dealing with a show like "The Osbournes". Above a certain age people just won't "get" the irony that smartly, expertly, wraps around the subjects and brings this show together. People will either be horrified seeing the legendary Black Sabbath front-man of their youth shuffling around the house or be horrified at the show's appearance of chaos, bleeped-out vulgarity and juvenile disrespect. It is that sense of humor towards its subjects, that ironically juxtaposes the antics of this Gothic clan in the packaging of a happy-go-lucky 50s sitcom (in which Ozzy is hilariously billed as "the Dad"), that makes "Osbournes" work spectacularly where so many other straight-up documentary shows fail. The fundamental premise - a real family in a show styled like a conventional sitcom - is brilliant.
An endearing aspect of the show is still that it allows us to see a celebrity behind closed doors doing every day choirs. There is a strange joy watching Ozzy making smoothies, walking the trash to the curb and running around looking for a cat in the bushes. It is exactly what a reality show should be. "Osbournes" breaks the usual rule-of-thumb that holds the reality genre as a whole back: real people just aren't very interesting. Other reality shows take pseudo-celebrities or people seeking their 15 minutes and give them a serious, ego-nourishing love note treatment; assuming we care as much as they do. Unlike these straight-faced documentaries, "The Osbournes" goal is comedy and - breaking the norm - the Osbournes themselves are actually fascinating to watch. This is true whether you love them or hate them, because the show is so tongue-in-cheek that our likeness of the show and Osbournes themselves are not mutually exclusive. And whether it is real or stage or simply edited to maximize the laughs (which it no doubt is, a round of applause goes to the show-runners stitching this thing together) - it is fun TV.
"The Osbournes" debuted as a massive hit in its first season. A summer of relentless hype that followed effectively helped MTV reduce their only semi-intelligent series to a fad. But the show as a whole is so much more than the novelty of bleeped out obscenities. It is an unconventional series about an unconventional family that radiates more love for each other than most supposedly "functional" TV families. I adore Sharon, who will say anything to anybody, Kelly's honesty, Jack who may or may not be a violent sleepwalker and Ozzy - who, even with his hilariously indecipherable speech and burned-out body, is still a truly bright and witty individual. More interestingly, after season 1 the whole thing becomes a twisted looking glass - a show about subjects whose lives are now being effected by the show they are on.
It didn't go the initially side-splitting way I wanted it to (there are few things funnier than Ozzy heaving a log through the neighbor's window), but life had other plans and the show was forced to deal with one real life family catastrophe after another, including Sharon's battle with breast cancer. In retrospect, it did so in a respectable and humorous way. There are dud episodes, usually the ones that find the family outside of the home or on vacation, and a lengthy, wildly homo-erotic wresting match between Jack and deadbeat house-guest Dill rank as a series low point. But there are many turns into true episodic brilliance: Kelly's feud with Christina Aguilera (and the hilarious about-face ending), Kelly's filthy first boyfriend, Bert, and the provocative, reality-bending, season 2 finale are favorites. The show swung back with a vengeance in the 4th season, one that leaves the entire family seemingly at a satisfying place in their lives.
Funny, strange, original, wacky, messy and even touching. "The Osbournes" is very likely the greatest thing MTV has ever stumbled on and a high for the reality genre - one that I suspect to be to self-righteous to pull off something like this again. Sometimes it was like putting yourself through a spanking machine, but I will go out on a limb and say that this show will be remembered. MTV has now moved on to masterpieces like "The Ashlee Simpson Show", but this 4-year video record was the first and will likely remain the best of its kind. It is more than a reality show, "The Osbournes" was a unique reality comedy that had fun playing with the medium at the same time.
Sharon, Ozzy, Jack and Kelly - thanks for sharing.
* * * ½ / 5
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