The boxes are stacked outside the Beverly Hills home, ready to be carried in. Each is neatly labeled: “pots and pans,” “linens,” “devil heads,” “dead things.” Plainly, Ozzie and Harriet aren’t moving in.
This Ozzy is Ozzy Osbourne, the heavy metal rock star, and his family. Their arrival in the neighborhood heralds a hilarious new MTV series, “The Osbournes,” that premieres 10:30 p.m. EST Tuesday.
MTV describes it as television’s first “reality sitcom,” a format that suggested itself naturally because nothing they could invent around the Osbournes would be as funny as their actual lives.
Just the idea of the Black Sabbath founder, who will forever be known for biting the head off a bat during a 1982 concert, as a family man seems strange. Yet leather and black mascara can be deceiving.
Osbourne, 53, is slightly addled but sweetly funny – and under everything a lot like the put-upon dads you’ve been seeing in television sitcoms for generations.
Watch a bewildered Ozzy fruitlessly try to navigate a satellite TV remote control, begging for help from his 16-year-old son. “I’m stuck on the Weather Channel,” he says. “Arrrggghhh!!”
His wife, Sharon, is a formidable talent manager in her own right who organizes the popular Ozzfest summer concert tours. She leaped to Ozzy’s defense at a recent news conference when a reporter asked whether MTV would close-caption Osbourne’s occasionally indecipherable dialogue.
“Who said that?” she demanded. When the reporter stood up, Sharon swore at her.
Indeed, expletives appear to be the Osbournes’ favorite form of communication. During the first 30-minute episode, dialogue is bleeped out 59 times. The “South Park” kids would be proud.
Two of the couple’s three children – Jack and 17-year-old Kelly – are featured in the series. A third, older child opted out. Jack’s something of an oddball having trouble fitting in at school. The pink-haired, high-strung Kelly is, like any teen-ager, appropriately embarrassed by her parents.
In a future episode, Ozzy talks to Kelly about the dangers of getting a tattoo. Dad also gives Kelly and Jack a lecture one night as they’re about to go out.
“Don’t drink,” he says. “Don’t take drugs. If you have sex, wear a condom.”
A horrified Kelly looks like she can’t get out of the room fast enough.
There’s trouble with the neighbors, too. The family next door plays music too loud and it’s driving the Osbournes crazy. They’re nothing like one of their former neighbors, Pat Boone and his family, who were “the best neighbors we ever had,” Sharon said.
“We had Pat Boone on one side and Meat Loaf on the other,” Kelly recalled.
“It was sort of like a Satan sandwich,” Ozzy said.
The Osbournes had been thinking of turning their lives into a television show for a while, after a well-received segment about their home life on the MTV series, “Cribs.” Television executives they talked to wanted to build a fictional show around them. They didn’t want to be like “Ozzie & Harriet,” where the people were real but their television life wasn’t.
“We’re not the Partridge family,” Sharon said. “It had to be real or we wouldn’t do it. MTV agreed to do it as it was and just leave it pure.”
So they agreed to live with cameras everywhere for a few months. “We all learned a lot about ourselves – that we all swear too much and have bad tempers,” she said.
Jack and Kelly bicker like all teen-aged siblings. With insults – and objects – flying between them, an exasperated Ozzy says at one point, “I love you all, I love you more than life itself, but you’re all (expletive) mad!”
“We argue,” Sharon explained, “but at the end of the day we all love each other.”
What family couldn’t relate? One reason the Osbournes did the series was to demystify their lives. Look beyond the Beverly Hills home, stocked with Ozzy’s collection of devils and crucifixes, and viewers will see lives that are pretty mundane.
“What is a functional family?” Ozzy asked. “I know I’m dysfunctional by a long shot, but what guidelines do we all have to go by? The Waltons? What I’m trying to say is, what is the family that we should all take our inspiration from?”