Fact of the day: without The Osbournes, there would be no Keeping Up With The Kardashians. It’s now hard to recall how different telly was back in 2002, when Ozzy Osbourne’s reality show launched on MTV and became the most-watched programme on the channel. But reality TV didn’t exist like it does now, and the landscape changed because of his show’s success. Ozzy shuffled out of the way and The Kardashians strutted right in behind him.
Well, don’t tell Ozzy that, as he recently lambasted the Kardashian klan in an interview with The Big Issue. “I said to Sharon the other day, ‘What the fuck is the deal with these Kardashians? They don’t sing, they don’t act, they don’t do anything’”, he explained. “‘She told me, ‘The trend now is that people want to be celebrities and make money for doing fuck nothing.’”
The Osbournes’ premise was so simple that it was almost non-existent, setting a template that endless reality TV shows would imitate. Ozzy, the Prince of Darkness, rattled around his enormous Beverley Hills mansion while his manager wife, Sharon, and their teenage kids, Jack and Kelly, acted up for our viewing pleasure. The first series won an Emmy, though reality TV was such a little known genre in 2002 that Ozzy and his brood’s exploits were included in the “non-fiction programme” category. Readers, The Osbournes was no documentary.
There was heavy stuff, for sure – Sharon’s health troubles, Jack’s nascent substance abuse issues – but much of the appeal lay in the show’s inanity. The clan seemed just like us, except with more money and the opportunity to utter iconic lines (Ozzy, assessing a bubble machine Sharon has included in his upcoming tour set-up: “I’m fucking Ozzy Osbourne, the Prince of fucking Darkness! Evil! Evil! What’s fucking evil about a buttload of fucking bubbles!?”).
The Osbournes: they didn’t do very much, and did it a really expensive house, and ultimately they all loved each other. Sounds a bit like Keeping Up With the Kardashians, doesn’t it?
And now Ozzy’s having a go at Kim and co. Obviously the whole “But they’re famous for nothing!”’ thing is a debate the rest of us were having when the Kardashians first wedged their diamond-encrusted heels through the front door of the E! Entertainment studio back in 2007, but Ozzy Osbourne doesn’t have to keep up with the zeitgeist. That doesn’t mean, though, that his hypocrisy should go unchecked. Chill, out, Ozzy, you basically invented the Kardashians.
Writer Tshepo Mokoena discussed this in a VICE article a couple of years ago, when she relayed the premise of The Osbournes and concluded: “You can see the same dynamic at play in Keeping Up with the Kardashians. It’s glossier, and more wrapped up in the sexuality of the various Kardashian and Jenner women, but similarly offers insight into an “unconventional” – read: rich and loud – family.” She continued: “In the time since the Osbournes’ exit from MTV, their show format has been replicated incessantly. A heavy metal singer helped lead us into the world of The Real Housewives of Orange County… of Laguna Beach: the Real Orange County and Here Comes Honey Boo-Boo. Really, it’s quite the legacy.”
Yes, he’s Ozzy fucking Osbourne, but many viewers who enjoyed his show in the early noughties couldn’t care less about Black Sabbath, or the fact that he helped invent heavy metal.
The Osbournes became so enormously successful that it turned each member of the Osbourne family into a celebrity and revived Ozzy’s career in the process. If it had launched in the online age, Ozzy would have become the human embodiment of a meme, dodging dog shit, swearing constantly, looking bemused at pretty much everything happening around him. 2002 was a wildly different time, but The Osbournes helped to shape the anarchic, celebrity driven pop culture world that we’re still living through all these years later.
In fact, Ozzy is still trading on this in 2018, given that he and his son’s travel show Ozzy & Jack’s World Detour recently returned for a third series (with Kelly newly onboard). It’s a bit rich for him to damn the reality TV boom when he’s still creaming rewards from its feedback loop, from the sonic explosion he sounded off in 2002. The Kardashians are a mirror-image of the Osbournes, Ozzy – sorry to burst your bubble.