Has "The Osbournes" Overstayed It's Welcome? (7/8/2002)
Taken from Entertainment Weekly, Issue #662:
Has ''The Osbournes'' overstayed its welcome? They're everywhere,
from Buckingham Palace to toy stores, but is MTV's first family in
a 'Bourne identity crisis?
Can you remember, way back to six months ago, when you didn't know
anything about Ozzy Osbourne except something about bats and a band
called Black Sabbath? Now, thanks to MTV's all-time highest-rated
show, Ozzy and wife Sharon are buddies with George W., have been
described as ''loving'' by former veep Dan Quayle, and even
appeared before Queen Elizabeth for her Golden Jubilee.
That's not even the half of it. Between talk-show visits, magazine
stories (in fact, see a review of Osbourne websites on page 86),
and the seventh Ozzfest kicking off July 6, the foul-mouthed family
has officially invaded America. And did we mention the woofer
shaking onslaught of more than 100 items of Osbourne kitsch, with
the clan set to rake in $10-15 million on current merchandising deals?
But buyers beware: The Osbourne backlash has begun. Bill Cosby and
David Bowie both dissed the show in June, Cosby referring to the
family as ''a sad case'' and Bowie sniffing that Ozzy has ''become
this junk culture thing.'' And in an admittedly unscientific poll
of 100 random people in New York City, just over half said the
Osbournes are overexposed, with Kelly cited as the biggest offender
most likely due to her ubiquitous cover of Madonna's ''Papa Don't
Preach'' from ''The Osbourne Family Album'' (which debuted at No.
13 on the Billboard charts).
Ever the savvy businesswoman, Sharon declines to comment on her
strategy. But to execs at MTV, ''The Osbournes'' is the latest
example of a fickle MO perfected by such short-lived sensations as
''Beavis and Butt-head,'' ''Singled Out,'' and ''Jackass.''
''I've just come to accept that as a part of the dynamic of MTV,''
says entertainment prez Brian Graden, who greenlighted ''The
Osbournes'' last year and reran the show up to five times per week.
''It's going to burn as fast as it's going to burn. Will we ever
see first-season numbers again? I don't know. We can't stretch it
These days, the shelf life of any pop-culture phenom appears to
be shorter than Ozzy's attention span. Consider the life cycle of
insta-hit ''Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,'' once thought to be
the final answer to ABC's ratings woes. The Regis Philbin-hosted
game show's popularity peaked fast, with episodes running up to
four times a week. But ratings plummeted just as quickly, until
ABC pulled the plug on the series in May. ''Millionaire'' exec
producer Michael Davies says networks are smart to cash in right
away: ''Many people have said ABC ruined ['Millionaire' by]
overexposing it. But would the show really have lasted 17 years
on the network doing those kinds of numbers? Reality shows have
replaced the specials business. You can watch it in huge numbers
and talk about it with friends and then not see it again for a
Does it pay for Ozzy and Co. to pace themselves until the
now-in-production second season airs this fall? Probably not,
because reality copycats are already rearing their heads: R&B
singer Brandy Norwood recounts her recent pregnancy on MTV,
while Anna Nicole Smith's show debuts in August on E! ''If you
don't get your programs in while you're hot, the inevitability
is you will be copied so much, so quickly, that your programs
will lose value anyway,'' says Davies. ''We were definitely
hurt by the fact that everybody tried to make a game show
derivative of ['Millionaire'].''
Competition isn't the only risk. The clan's initial charm
could be drained by massive exposure, not to mention such
curious spin-offs as Osbourne beer mugs (isn't Ozzy a recovering
alcoholic?), backpacks (though offspring Jack, 16, and Kelly, 17,
don't even go to school), and ''I'm the f---ing Prince of
Darkness'' cane-shaped talking pooper-scoopers (where to begin?).
''One of the things the audience responded to was how normal the
domestic situation was despite the extraordinary life they lead,''
says Graden. ''The question is: What normalcy has been infringed
upon by the show?''
Speaking of normalcy, what's the cost of sudden celebrity to the
family, particularly the two teens? ''The Osbourne children are
at serious risk and [the show] borders on abuse,'' warns Paul
Petersen, former star of ''The Donna Reed Show'' and founder of
A Minor Consideration, a nonprofit group for roughly 600 former
child actors that includes Melissa Gilbert and Mackenzie Phillips.
''Look two years ahead. If they're tossed on life's scrap heap
before the age of 20, what do you think comes next? They've got
another 70 years of living to do.''
But another veteran of MTV's flash flood of celebrity is less
worried. Jack and Kelly ''are used to this,'' says Tom Green,
noting that the children of a rock star face less adjustment to
fame than others. Still, Green does have some typically deadpan
advice: ''I was going to say, 'Tell Jack not to marry a movie
star.' But that would be cynical now, wouldn't it?''