The 10 greatest moments from The Osbournes

From bubbles to dogs to cauliflower dicks, we count down the 10 most memorable moments from The Osbournes.

The 10 greatest moments from The Osbournes
Nick Ruskell

There had been Big Brother providing unscripted reality TV, there had been MTV Cribs allowing you to have a nose around celebrity houses, and there had been watching people go about their lives in The Real World. Still, when it first aired on March 5, 2002, there was nothing quite like The Osbournes – the family or the show. Following the domestic life of Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne, their children, their dogs, and anyone else who came into their world, it was a raw, warts and all look at what it’s like to be in the inner ring of The Prince Of Darkness, both glittering and relatably mundane.

Always, it was gripping. It was unscripted, it was loud, it was sometimes disgusting, and it was almost always hilarious. As with the best TV families – The Flintstones, The Simpsons, The Addams Family – there was a powerful but natural dynamic at play: Ozzy, the long-suffering father, Sharon the all-seeing, all-knowing matriarch, the kids trying to outsmart both of them, a dog. Quickly, it became the must-watch on MTV, and made The Osbournes the most famous family in America.

It wasn’t always grand, though. Ozzy admits that he doesn’t want to watch it again, and that its effects on his family and himself did take their toll. Meanwhile, though Kelly and Jack appeared in the show, daughter Aimee didn’t participate, to the point of near invisibility. Watching back some of it, there are obvious problems and issues that are simply uncomfortable to see.

But in its best moments, it could also be heartwarming, incisive and real in the best possible way. More often than not, what sits at the fore is an overwhelming amount of love in a household that, for all the wealth and celebrity, could easily be anyone’s were it not for having Ozzy as the dad. As it turns 20, we look back at the 10 best moments from the show that changed TV forever…

10Ozzy’s bubbles

Behind the scenes access to Ozzy's live shows is one of the more genuinely interesting elements of The Osbournes, especially when it captures incidental background stuff like his chair collapsing while Zakk Wylde gives a to-camera interview. You also get a glimpse into the decision-making process that goes into a gig. For instance, one Christmas show involved Ozzy arriving onstage in a sleigh as a demonic Santa. What’s the extra five per cent Sharon wants to put on top of this idea? Bubbles. “Bubbles! Oh, come on, Sharon! I'm fucking Ozzy Osbourne, the Prince of fucking Darkness. Evil! Evil! What's fucking evil about a butt-load of fucking bubbles?” As is so often proved to be the case, Ozzy’s words are surprisingly full of wisdom here.

9Rowing with the neighbours

If you’re picking your neighbours, reckons Ozzy, you could do a lot worse than ’50s lounge lizard Pat Boone. A quiet, polite man, he was a dream to live next to. Helped out with a swinging version of Crazy Train for the show’s titles, too. A shame, then, that he moved, and was replaced by noisy bastards who party and play music into the night. After over-the-fence diplomacy between said neighbours and Jack (bad), then Sharon (a bit better) breaks down, things start getting thrown, including a ham. We can’t bring ourselves to repeat what Sharon says the meat looks like (it’s worse than when she declared “Martha Stewart can lick my scrotum”), and we can’t say it does much to cool things off. So, yeah, if you don’t want Sharon throwing ham at you when you live next door to her, just ask yourself: what would Pat Boone do?

8Jack dances with Christina Aguilera

If you want to know what 2003 looked like, basically this. Especially because after Jack finishes cutting some rug with Xtina, Kelly goes ballistic at him for it – a staple of any classic Osbournes moment. "When you hate someone, I hate someone," is her beef, that Jack hasn’t got her back in return. "You just wanted to say that you danced with Christina Aguilera." Then they fight. Then their mother breaks it up. Then the feud goes on for years. Then Christina buys the Osbournes’ old house. Then she sells it at a profit. Then she and Kelly make peace. Jack never danced with her again, though.

7Kelly’s tattoo

Oft highlighted by the series was Kelly and Jack’s incredulity at being told what not to do by their father. Drink, drugs, shagging – ‘It’s okay for you to do it but not us?’ was the consistent party line. And so it went when Kelly came home with a tattoo. At first he’s incredulous, then fine at seeing how small it is (“I thought you were gonna have a fuckin’ eagle across your arse…”). But he’s not the boss, is he? Not only does he refuse to keep it secret from Sharon, he drops his daughter right in it, phoning her at the salon so Kelly can fess up. It’s actually weirdly intense watching this bit back, like you’re in trouble, too.

6Jack hearing his parents talk about sex

The reason The Osbournes was so gripping was that, apart from mum and dad's jobs, They’re Just Like Us. In this instance, we are all Jack Osbourne’s grimace at hearing his parents talk about their sex life on the radio. Ozzy is very cool, but nobody needs to know about their father on the job – especially not when it’s coming out of your mate’s car stereo and he’s insisting on talking about his Viagra intake.

5Kelly brings Bert McCracken home

As far as PR for your new boyfriend goes, your brother calling him “Pukey” to your mother on account of his habit of throwing up onstage isn’t good. Kelly, however, didn't help herself prepare for her ’rents meeting The Used frontman Bert McCracken when she told her mater that her new beau’s nickname in his band is – and there is no drumroll big enough to tee-up this bit of self-sabotage – Cauliflower Dick. What is the best thing that’s going to come out of that? "You're not going out with anyone with a dick like a cauliflower!" she exclaimed. And this was before she met him, an occasion at which a visibly very nervous Bert meekly introduces himself to Sharon, before she drops the bomb: where did this cauliflower dick come from? It’s excruciating. You’d feel bad if it wasn’t a situation entirely avoidable by simply… not offering your mum such grand ammo in the first place.

4Ozzy survives a quad accident

Not exactly banter, but an incident that nevertheless showed the heart of what the show was all about. While zooming around his Buckinghamshire estate on a quad bike, Ozzy falls off and suffers serious injuries to his neck vertebrae, a broken collarbone, eight fractured ribs that were pinching crucial blood vessels. And he ended up in hospital in Slough, so all in all a terrible day. Happily, Ozzy survived, and his recovery over the episodes that followed were at times incredibly touching.

3Kelly’s birthday

If you could, you’d celebrate turning 18 by taking a private jet to Las Vegas with friends and family for a weekend of horsing about, wouldn’t you? That’s what Kelly did. She spends a lot of time moaning about Jack ruining it, and yelling, “It’s my birthday!” at anyone telling her to just ignore him, but it still looks like a riot. Quite why Jack and his mates prepare for a wild night out in Sin City by watching Teletubbies in their suite is anyone’s guess, mind…

2The naughty dogs

Like Frasier, the dogs who occupy the Osbourne homestead are crucial to the wit of the show. Like when they piss and shit all over the carpets and Ozzy accuses them of being terrorists. Oscar Wilde levels of humour, there. They tried to sort it out with a dog psychologist early on, a move Ozzy offered a second opinion on, in that, "You don't need to hire a dog therapist, you just need to wake up at 7am and open the fucking door!" Surprise indoor dogshit notwithstanding, The Osbournes wouldn’t be right without Lola and the rest of the doggy gang. Indeed, when we visited them in LA, it was heartening to see a blur of fur outside, and Ozzy telling one pet who’d got in K!’s chair just as we were about to sit down to, “Fuck off.”

1Sharon beats cancer

The Osbournes was many things, some which in hindsight do not look as fun or as funny as they seemed at the time. But at its best, it was neither of these things, but rather a genuinely moving, deeply personal journey in which the humanity that reality TV can document was shown in its most brilliant light. In 2002, Sharon was diagnosed with and treated for colon cancer, something which was included in the show alongside the usual mayhem. As the cameras followed her into hospitals, or showed her lying in her bed at home exhausted from treatment, they captured a sense of how even the most mundane elements of life can be affected by the disease. Happily, as we know, she beat it, and used her profile to raise awareness of the importance of early diagnosis and getting yourself checked out, joining up with the American Cancer Society to convey the message: “Make your bottom a top priority.”

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