Today marks the 20th anniversary of one of the most culturally significant TV shows of all time, The Osbournes. Broadcast during the era when MTV was still at its peak and when reality television was all the rage, it gave us insight into the lives of one of the celebrity world’s most idiosyncratic families, The Osbournes.
Following the life of ‘The Prince of Darkness’, Black Sabbath frontman, Ozzy, his wife Sharon and children Kelly and Jack, it was a hilarious and candid view of their life in Beverly Hills. In many ways, it showed that celebrities aren’t so different from ourselves, despite the mansions and personal wealth.
The show premiered on March 5th, 2002, at its first season was the most-viewed series of all time on MTV, indicating the strength of the cultural pull that it had. The final episode aired on March 21st, 2005, and by that time, The Osbournes were loved by everyone who watched the show.
In short, The Osbournes, set a precedent for everything else that followed in reality TV. Without it, you could say goodbye to Keeping Up with the Kardashians and Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie’s iconic The Simple Life. Likened to a wildlife programme, this was modern voyeurism at its finest.
Ozzy, was, of course, the main character, and his doddering but affable personality dispelled many of the satanic myths that had abounded since the cocaine-fuelled and bat eating days of Black Sabbath. Whether it was his struggles feeding the cat, his love for burritos or the instance where he took Jack’s drumkit into the garden to encourage him to play, Ozzy endeared himself to fans, presenting himself as an interesting and humble fellow, the antithesis to the character that was hitherto presented in the media.
Who can forget Osbourne’s soliloquy in season one?: “I’m not proud of having a poor education, I’m not proud of being dyslexic and having attention deficit disorder, I’m not proud of being a drug addict-alcoholic, I’m not proud about biting the head off a bat – I’m not proud of a lot of things. But I’m a real guy, with real feelings, and that kind of scares me sometimes, you know? It could be worse, I could be Sting.”
Absolutely hilarious, each episode was brimming with laughs, and the love-hate relationship between the petulant Kelly and Jack was also a delight. The show was completely different to anything that came before it, and it set the world on fire. One of the most endearing undercurrents was watching Sharon attempting to hold it all together. From the outset, it was made very clear after that she was the glue that held each of the three other hectic parts together, averting disaster time and time again. The episode where she argues with Jack about a pocket knife was comedy gold.
Of the show’s success, Sharon told Jess Cagle in 2019: “It was really Ozzy… He was the one that was in the public eye. He was the celebrity, and he’s the one that took all the risks. We didn’t, the kids and I, but he took a huge risk. I think it paid off for Ozzy because people saw how funny he is. He’s just hysterical, and a teddy bear.”
Interestingly, the series had four seasons over three years. It was the first reality show to win an Emmy, and many of its stylistic facets were then replicated by all that followed, including The Simple Life and Keeping Up with the Kardashians and even titles such as Jersey Shore and Real Housewives.
It was such a behemoth that it spawned no end of merch, including games and figures, and the family even parodied themselves in 2002’s Austin Powers in Goldmember, indicating just how ubiquitous they’d become, seemingly overnight.
The Osbournes was an indisputable cultural juggernaut, and we’d love for it to return one day. To be given a chance to enter the home of Beverly Hills’ most dysfunctional family for one last time would be brilliant.
Watch a clip of The Osbournes below.