One of the sadder gimmicks in the last few years has been a horrific attempt at an old-fashioned "variety show" like Ed Sullivan's or Carol Burnett's, with none of yesterday's charm and all of today's cynical sleaze. NBC thoroughly flopped with a crass Rosie O'Donnell hour last Thanksgiving. Why would this be any better?
In fact, "variety" isn't the proper word for this incessant spectacle of infantile rebellion and swear words. "Comedy" doesn't fit, either. It was apparently defined by 60-year-old Ozzy putting on a leotard and pretending to be the dancing girl in "Flashdance," with the alleged punchline of a concluding fart.
The saddest stunt in the whole wretched mess was a forced wedding ceremony. The Osbournes pulled a "random" man out of the audience, then presented him with his longtime girlfriend, who came on stage in a wedding gown and threatened "It's over -- unless you marry me tonight." Family and friends and a minister were all pushed in the groom's face. "The marriage union is the closest relationship that can ever exist between two individuals," the preacher declared. "It is not something to be entered into lightly" -- as if being forced to marry on a trashy Osbournes special isn't taking it lightly. The groom surrendered, and Ozzy soaked the audience with foam from a hose.
Why would Fox try to resuscitate the nasty, cursing Osbournes four years after their program died on MTV? It certainly wasn't done for critical acclaim. Tom Shales of The Washington Post flagrantly denounced it as "Must-Flee TV." Even Post TV reporter Lisa DeMoraes, who normally finds indecency to be an occasion for fun and frivolity, suggested it had "gone too far, even for Fox." Newsday insisted: "Too bad it wasn't shortened to 35 seconds ... 35 microseconds ... In fact, too bad it just wasn't canceled."