It's Possible That 'Osbournes: Reloaded' Has Gone Too Far -- Even for 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.

On the bright side, Rolling Stone got his name wrong -- Jeff Cavileer, the mag insists.

In its opus about the situation, Rolling Stone savages the special as a debacle unbefitting the Prince of Darkness because it paints the "legendary Black Sabbath singer as a clown" -- having apparently missed MTV's "The Osbournes" -- but objected to the Panama City station in particular having pulled the plug, because it's a matter of "constitutional rights." The mag summed it all up with a rewrite of Voltaire's gag: "[Rolling Stone] does not agree with the show, but we'll fight to the death for your right to watch it."

Noted Cavileer, David: "It's funny that your house is worth half what it was two years ago, and [North] Korea is threatening to shoot up a missile and Japan is threatening to shoot it down, but everybody is mad about the Osbournes' show. "

And, for the record, Fox issued a statement saying that " 'Osbournes: Reloaded' was thoroughly vetted by our Standards and Practices Department to ensure it was appropriate for broadcast during the scheduled time period. If any network affiliate feels the programming may be inappropriate for its individual market, however, it has the right to preempt the program."

* * *

Just when you thought it couldn't be done, "American Idol" producers find a way to squeeze one more drop of product placement out of their show, when host Ryan Seacrest announces the theme for this week's performance episode: "Popular Downloads on iTunes." By "popular," they mean "anything."

Anoop Desai is, for the first time in ages, not dressed as if he's heading to intramurals practice. He's dressed like Michael Jackson. And while singing the Usher tune "Caught Up," he reprises his "rebel" look, made famous during his earlier performance of "My Prerogative": the lip curling, the jaw clenching, the stage strutting, the lapel caressing -- you remember the drill. "I'm getting the feeling like a bunch of frat boys dared you to get up and sing Usher," judge Kara DioGuardi says, summing it up perfectly.

Megan Joy Corkrey "absolutely loves" her Bob-Marley-as-performed-by-Lauryn-Hill tune, "Turn Your Lights Down Low." The tons of chains and ropes and faux pearls around her neck weigh her down sufficiently to prevent her from breaking into her Regular Wash Cycle Dance. Judge Paula Abdul suggests that Megan really needs to "dig deep into an area she might not be comfortable with, but which is where beauty develops," which appears to involve "sitting on a stool with just a center spotlight with no distractions of movement, singing a sensitive vulnerable ballad that rips the heart of everyone." This week, more than ever, Paula sounds as if she's delivering a well-rehearsed Academy Awards acceptance speech every time she opens her mouth.

Danny Gokey says he wants to tone it down and sing his heart out to Rascal Flatts' "What Hurts the Most," which, judge Simon Cowell says afterward, was -- compared with the previous two Idolettes -- like two snails competing with a racehorse.

Allison Iraheta is enormously talented but utterly redundant every week, but this week she's saved by her Cyndi Lauper-cum-Pippi Longstocking look -- including some hood ornament that's been glue-gunned to her head, which so fascinates the judges that they can't talk about anything else. Simon says it reminds him of "a precocious daughter trying to dress like a rock star." Smart girl.

Scott MacIntyre's been made over, and is now sporting Seacrest's hair from three seasons back, wearing a black leather jacket, and singing Billy Joel's "Just the Way You Are." Everyone sings his praises, especially Paula, who says that out of all the contestants that have graced the stage -- oh yes, she did -- she's most proud of Scott and it has nothing to do with his "challenge" (he's nearly blind) but everything to do with what he does that makes her forget about that "challenge."

Matt Giraud ventures into "contemporary" land again, with the Fray's "You Found Me," and while it's not as big a train wreck as his Coldplay night, it's nearly that bad. Judge Randy Jackson keeps telling Matt he needs to be Justin Timberlake, but Matt's still having none of it.

Lil Rounds tries yet another look -- 1940s nightclub crooner -- and takes a stab at Celine Dion's "I Surrender" to placate the judges, who've told her she should sing something big. They decide it was the wrong big, and she should have gone with, say, a Mariah tune. But Lil is saved when Seacrest deploys one of her beautiful little children to cling to Randy, creating "Idol's" Cutest. Moment. Ever.

Adam Lambert -- a.k.a. The Only Reason to Watch This Season -- has put together a Tim Curry-meets-Little Richard version of Wild Cherry's "Play That Funky Music," which causes Paula to gush that he's the next Mick Jagger, and Kara to rave that it was "like Studio 57." Which, presumably, is three better than "Studio 54."

And, finally, Kris Allen demonstrates he can also play piano with "Ain't No Sunshine" and it's a generally fine-ish performance, which means, yes, we are all going to have to learn to tell the difference between Kris and Matt. Unless Matt, last week's Nearly Booted, gets the heave-ho tonight. Fingers crossed.

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