Tom Shales on 'Osbournes: Reloaded': It's So Bad, It's Must-Flee TV

By Tom Shales
Wednesday, April 1, 2009

"Osbournes: Reloaded," a revolting debacle that debuted last night on the feckless Fox network, could make history -- as the first TV show ever to be recalled for fear of poisoning the atmosphere. It's hard to imagine anyone who'd be sorry to see it go except perhaps for the Osbournes themselves, and in their besotted states, they might not realize it had been canceled until weeks afterward.

Billed cynically as a variety show, the series -- which aired in a strange 35-minute time gap following an abbreviated "American Idol" -- trots out the tired old Osbourne troupe in the hope of getting a few more profitable laps out of them. They previously scored playing themselves in a reality show on MTV, but a little of that went a long way -- right off a cliff.

Each member of the family who's participating -- father Ozzy, matriarch Sharon and teenagers Jack and Kelly -- registers as repulsive in a different way, with Sharon scoring special points for her boorish bossiness and zeal for sleaze. She emceed one of the show's most lamentable features, a kind of shotgun wedding with TV cameras playing the shotguns and a hapless schmo from the audience as the unsympathetic victim.

In a mad, sad twist on "The Bachelor" and other such relationship reality shows, the man was brought onstage and confronted by the woman he'd been dating for seven years. "I just can't take it anymore," she told him. "It's over -- unless you marry me tonight." The climax of the show was the wedding, with the outcome not apparent until the groom said either yes or no, when asked whether he'd take "this woman" to be his wife.

The man botched that moment up by going into a monologue instead of just answering the question, but eventually he gave in and the nuptials were betrothed, or whatever terminology fits. To celebrate, the seemingly perpetually stoned Ozzy sprayed members of the audience with chemical foam from a hose while a rock band played what sounded vaguely like Billy Idol's "White Wedding."

In another segment, taped in advance, the Osbournes took over a fast-food drive-through window, issuing heavily bleeped obscenities to customers over a speaker and pelting them with french fries and other junk-food delicacies. There wasn't a genuine laugh in this situation -- but there were many when David Letterman did it first, on his late-night show many years ago. Letterman's old "found comedy" bits continue to be the most-plagiarized humor on TV.

No imitators, however, do it half as well -- least of all the oafish Osbournes.

Among other sequences: A youngish man was blindfolded and invited to kiss a young girl, only to have an older gray-haired woman substituted; a taped sketch that purportedly portrayed Ozzy and Sharon as children, their salient features being rudeness and deployment of dirty words (resulting in a many, many more bleeps); and Ozzy dressed in a leotard for a parody of an ages-old bump-and-grinder from the movie "Flashdance."

That last sketch ended with a burst of flatulence; in this context, almost a witty barb.

The lame, feeble, sordid antics were performed on a stage decorated like one of Dr. Evil's lairs, replete with time machine, from the "Austin Powers" movies, pointlessly enough. In those films, the retro tackiness makes a satiric point, but satire is way beyond the Osbournes and whatever cretinous sub-primates produced this hideous sham of a show.

Not sham-wow, mind you; just sham.

Many of the commercial breaks were filled with Fox promos, suggesting sponsors have been hard to find -- and not because of the recession, either. Fox should do all of America a big favor and make "Osbournes: Reloaded" hard to find as well, pulling its plug before another egregious episode can air and endanger us all.

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