Why ''7th Heaven'' is as great as ''The Osbournes'' -- The Camden clan is so unreal they're real, and that's what puts them in the class of Ozzy and his wacky TV family
7th Heaven, The Osbournes
Credit: 7th Heaven: Dorothy Low /The WB; The Osbournes: MTV

Odds are, you love ”The Osbournes.” You’re probably part of the ever-expanding audience that’s making it the most watched show in MTV history. And bloody well you should be! I’m as smitten as the next vicarious Osbourne, but I’m also quite attached to another California clan: the Camdens, who star in the WB’s most popular show, ”7th Heaven.”

Don’t laugh. The Camdens and the Osbournes have way more in common than you’d think. In Monday’s (May 6, 8 p.m.) special episode of ”Heaven,” gifted ‘tween Ruthie (played by MacKenzie Rosman, perhaps the most lovably loathsome child actor on TV) gets a Marine pen pal who’s stationed in Afghanistan. In a brilliant, and surprisingly moving sweeps stunt, the Camdens come to terms with the Sept. 11 fallout and, on the lighter side, Ruthie does a mean cover of Tom Petty’s ”I Won’t Back Down.”

No family is as corny, open, and communicative as the Camdens, just as no family curses, throws ham, and feuds as much as the Osbournes. The Camdens all have to live under the sometimes ridiculously moral rule of their father, a reverend, as the Osbournes must deal with the erratic, unpredictable whims of their dad, a rock star.

In a way, each family embodies one equally necessary side of the pop culture coin: The real-life Osbournes are so real they’re unreal; the fictional Camdens are so unreal, they’re real. Your experience of watching the Osbournes cuss 72 times in 22 minutes will only be better for having escaped into the noxiously naive, 32-lessons-an-episode, out-loud world of the Camdens for 45 minutes.

7th Heaven
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