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The Osbournes: American Goth

How a simple, headbanging British family became out nation’s latest reality-TV addiction

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Ozzy! Ozzy! Ozzy!” it’s late one night in early April, and a boisterous chant is rising from the gathering crowd. Hyped-up college dudes and tank-top-clad chicks are perched atop their cars, pumping their fists and hoping to get a glimpse of heavy metal’s premier prince of darkness. Is this the parking lot at Ozzfest?

Unfortunately for the residents of this previously tranquil Beverly Hills neighborhood, the arena-rock scenario is now simply everyday life on the posh street where both the Osbournes and The Osbournes reside. In the last six weeks, a Hollywood tour bus has begun making an average of 20 exhaust-spewing pit stops per day in front of the yellow mansion MTV has made famous. ”My one regret with the show is that we used our real house,” says Ozzy, bunkered on his living room sofa. ”I mean, the Munsters didn’t use their real house!”

Of course, Herman and company also didn’t discuss the pros and cons of gynecology, or throw a ham at their annoying neighbors, or — if you want to get real technical here — actually exist in real life. Which is what makes The Osbournes—starring 53-year-old bat-biting shock-rocker Ozzy; his 50-year-old ferociously loving mama bear of a wife, Sharon; his charmingly deadpan son, Jack, 16; and his 17-year-old punk-rock, Kewpie-doll daughter Kelly (eldest daughter Aimee, who resides in a nearby flat, has opted to forgo a featured role in the series)—such a revolutionary TV concept. Their real life is the sitcom.

Spend a couple days inside chez Osbourne and you can instantly see how every inch of this family’s existence lends itself to comedy: the demon-head towel racks. The large crosses etched on every doorknob. The master of the house shuffling back and forth in his black velvet slippers while he pours you some industrial-strength coffee (”it’ll knock y’eyes in back y’skull” he promises) and then spoons out a bit of French Vanilla-flavored Cremora. Take a trip to the upstairs bathroom and you’ll see the lyric sheet to ”Papa Don’t Preach” lying on a countertop (looks like Kelly, who will be performing the song with two members from Incubus on the upcoming Osbournes soundtrack, has been crooning into the bathroom mirror again). Lurk near Jack’s bedroom door (which is covered with Tool stickers) and chances are you’ll hear nothing but the sounds of a tired kid sleeping off a late night out scouting bands for Epic records. Meanwhile, somewhere in the backyard, Sharon’s genteel English accent lifts to its highest pitch as she lavishes endless praise on her five beloved dogs.

”It’s all real,” says MTV Entertainment president Brian Graden, who greenlighted the Osbournes concept last fall. ”We sent the cameras out. We had really no idea what we were going to get. We simply started collecting footage. And as we viewed dailies, we saw things, like the Osbournes throwing food at their neighbors or when Kelly comes home with a tattoo. We began to see that a lot of these story lines mirrored classic domestic sitcom story lines, yet with a twist of outrageousness that you wouldn’t believe.”