As the makers of TV variety-show revivals like to tell us, there was once a great tradition in television. That tradition was of big, broad, vaudeville-like stage shows featuring song, dance, comedy, real-people stunts—all the light entertainment wrought by human imagining brought together under one umbrella.
There was another great tradition in television. That tradition was of former big TV and/or music stars—the Brady Bunch, for instance—desperately cashing in on their last few fleeting seconds of renown with cornball variety shows that threatened to retroactively destroy every positive memory you had of them.
Osbournes: Reloaded proudly carries on that tradition.
There is probably no point in reviewing last night’s show—which was apparently so amazing it had to be cut down to 35 minutes—sketch-for-sketch. I mean, Ozzy doing a dance/gymnastics routine and farting is pretty much review-proof; either you hated it or you’re ROTFLing all over again from the sheer memory. And I can’t say I hated the show through and through. The Little Osbournes was actually pretty funny, albeit a one-joke sketch that didn’t take long to wear out.
Mainly, however, Osbournes: Reloaded was simply depressing. I say this as someone who, for the first two seasons anyway, loved The Osbournes on MTV. Part of the appeal of that show was its mundanity, the feeling that you were watching the family be the way it was, without the desire to put on a facade for anyone.
Now I realize that that itself may have been a facade, that plenty of the show may have been contrived or worse. But if there was fakery, it was an anti-Hollywood kind of fakery; the Osbournes weren’t interested in portraying themselves as anything other than a weird, highly privileged family living in a unique and fascinating bubble of stardom. They related to one another, at least, as family members—arguing about rules, figuring out how to work the remote—rather than as stage characters.
Now, seeing the whole family mug through scripted stage patter—with poor Ozzy shunted off to the side for the occasional smile and grimace—just showed them as another set of fame hogs, willing to turn into parodies of themselves for one more crack at the spotlight. In the process—by so cheerfully embracing the phoniness of the most anti-rock’n'roll TV show imaginable—they only reinforced the idea that anything we’d seen of them in their MTV Osbournes period was phony as well. But if they were acting back then, at least it was much better acting. Who would have thought that the Osbournes could make swearing sound inauthentic?
I’ll be very curious to see how the ratings for this one hold up. If they’re strong, I suppose we can all sit back and wait for the inevitable return of Paris Hilton. [Update: As it turns out, the show finished fourth in the preliminary overnights, and that's with an American Idol lead-in. So Paris may be better off hoping for the next round of Celebrity Apprentice.]
Meanwhile, I’m with Red Forman on this one: