TV Column by Lisa de Moraes: Some Fox Stations Won't Air 'Osbournes: Reloaded'

Ozzy Osbourne soaks the audience during the premiere of "Osbournes: Reloaded," which at least 16 Fox affiliates will not air because of questionable skits.
Ozzy Osbourne soaks the audience during the premiere of "Osbournes: Reloaded," which at least 16 Fox affiliates will not air because of questionable skits. (By Ray Mickshaw -- Fox)
By Lisa de Moraes
Wednesday, April 1, 2009

At least 16 Fox TV stations refused to air the Osbourne family's "variety" special last night after seeing the promos for the program and looking at the six-minute "sizzle reel" that the network sent their way.

An additional 10 Fox stations virtually killed "Osbournes: Reloaded" by moving it out of prime time and into the wee hours of the morning -- as late as 1:35 a.m. today -- all but guaranteeing that the special would take a ratings hit. All told, it appears the show either will not air at all or be buried in late night in about 11 percent of the country.

But Fox staved off an even bigger station drop-off last night when it agreed to screen the special last weekend for suits at Hunt Valley, Md.-based Sinclair Broadcast Group, which owns 19 Fox stations in such markets as Baltimore; Columbus, Ohio; Nashville; Pittsburgh; Oklahoma City; San Antonio; Des Moines; and Madison, Wis. All the Sinclair stations were airing the show in its time slot, Fox reported.

Fox has ordered six episodes of "Osbournes: Reloaded" but has scheduled only this first one, taking a wait-and-see approach based on how last night's special performed. Fox did not make a screener of the special available to the media or to most of its stations, instead sending out a six-minute "sizzle reel" that featured a grandmother in silhouette, stripping and playing with her breasts; an unsuspecting young, blindfolded guy making out with who he thinks is a young chick but who in fact is another old woman; and two precocious moppets dressed as Ozzy Osbourne and wife Sharon, hurling obscenities at a teenaged chick behind the snack counter at a movie theater.

A shortened version of the first special aired last night, immediately after "American Idol" -- the country's most watched television program, which this season is clocking about 4 million kids and teens.

It's those kids-and-teens "American Idol" fans whom station execs cited when asked about their decision to pull the plug on the broadcast. Stations that pulled the special included such markets as Cincinnati; West Palm Beach, Fla.; Birmingham, Ala.; and Greensboro, N.C.. Stations that chose to delay the broadcast until late night included Denver; St. Louis; Raleigh, N.C.; Salt Lake City; and Kansas City. On the other hand, the show will be available to all those viewers today via and Hulu. The Web is a wonderful thing.

"If you look at the audience for 'American Idol,' you see all those kids. It didn't seem like the proper thing for me to do," David Cavileer, general manager of Fox's Panama City, Fla., station, told The TV Column. He's among those station execs who opted not to broadcast the program.

The irony was not lost on Cavileer, who acknowledged that his town is The Spring Break Capital of the World -- a.k.a. college students' Raunchville Riviera, a.k.a. "Girls Gone Wild" Kingdom.

"The reputation is probably well-earned as far as some of the things that have gone on during break, with 'Girls Gone Wild,' " Cavileer said.

"But that's not my real audience. This market is like two markets. . . . The beach is the tourist attraction and there are a lot of spring breakers, but I guarantee when they're down here for spring break, they're not watching television."

His "real" audience, he notes, is "families -- regular viewers, especially during 'American Idol.' I've got kids in my neighborhood who think I'm an idol because I can give them 'American Idol' hats, you know? When I saw the clip of those kids mouthing [an expletive] and read the preview of [the show], which said it had an 80-year-old grandmother backlit doing a striptease, I think I made the right decision. I've been in the business 32 years, and this is the first time that I've actually decided to pull a program."

He noted that Rolling Stone magazine had cast him as the villain in a First Amendment-rights drama.

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