These days you can barely turn on a television or scroll through your social media platform of choice, without hearing about a Kardashian’s latest revealing photoshoot or oddly named pet rabbit. If you were even remotely famous, or think you have the capability to be so (we’re looking at you Made in Chelsea cast, with your complicated, fabricated love lives), then a reality TV show is probably the pipeline. In 2015 these shows are ten a penny, and then some. But rewind 13 years years to 2002, and there was only one everyone’s lips: The Osbournes.
Ozzy, Sharon, Kelly and Jack shot to worldwide notoriety in 2002 with their eponymous reality TV show, The Osbournes, which documented the domestic life of heavy metal singer Ozzy and his family (minus eldest daughter, Aimee). A far cry from the wholesome shenanigans of The Brady Bunch and Full House, this show saw the family members whacking each other, their dog shitting all over the carpets, and enough bleep-worthy adverbs to challenge even the most seasoned FCC official. It was monumental. This stuff had simply never been seen before on TV and the programme was an instant hit; series one premiered on MTV and quickly became the most-viewed series ever for the cable channel, both in America and the UK, changing the content that MTV commissioned from then on.
The Osbournes became a divisive point — you either loved them or hated them, you either thought it was genuine and unedited or fake and premeditated. But one thing was for sure: there was seemingly never a dull day in the Osbourne household. All four members of the family had — have — extraordinarily unique, forceful personalities, and their behaviour at times appeared somewhat mad and hard to fathom. Controversy surrounded the show as the public freely watched their most private, difficult moments play out before the cameras. Sometimes it seemed like their lives were a total car crash (not to mention that time Ozzy very nearly died in a quad-bike accident), which is what reality TV producers’ dreams are made of, pretty much.
As the very first celebrity reality TV show, The Osbournes essentially paved the way for the maelstrom that followed in its wake. We sat down with our favourite reality-family to talk life in the spotlight and whether they regret any of it.
HUNGER: How does it feel to have had your lives played out in front of an audience?
Sharon: It was an absolutely amazing adventure, and I’m proud. Are you proud Ozzy?
Ozzy: Absolutely. Although saying that, I never actually watched one episode! I don’t like to watch myself on TV, especially when I’m being goofy!
HUNGER: What do you think of reality TV today? It has changed a lot since you started out.
Ozzy: It’s not real anymore!
Sharon: It’s not organic, so it’s not really reality TV. You can tell that it’s all pre-planned and scripted. You don’t wake up with perfect hair and make-up and your life doesn’t work out in 48 minutes. It’s just not what it was — none of it has any soul.
Ozzy: When we did it, it was a hundred percent real. What you saw is what we were like. We didn’t plan on getting up and doing what we did, we just let things happen. And that was the trick of The Osbournes. People would come into our house and go, “Is she always like this?” and we’d go, “Like what?” People would say, “You’ve got to film this. This is amazing!” But I was confused; I thought everybody had rows with their kids and their dog crapping on the floor.
Sharon: Now you’ve got a generation of young people — in their teens and early twenties — who have grown up watching reality TV, who just want to be famous. That’s what [reality TV] is now: a lot of people with no talent, nothing else to give, acting like idiots to get on a reality show. That’s it.
Ozzy: It’s completely different now to when we first did it. We had a camera crew and hidden cameras around the house for three years. There’s a lot of stuff and you can’t use absolutely every bit of film, so the editing was very important.
Sharon: We have a warehouse full of tapes, because they filmed us 24 hours a day for three years. So you can imagine all the stuff that wasn’t used.
HUNGER: What are you going to do with it?
Ozzy: I’m going to burn it! There’s stuff on there I wouldn’t like to look at — I was drunk a lot in them days. Not one thing was scripted with us.
Sharon: We didn’t need a script. We’ve all got our own individual strong identities, and the kids, being 15 and 16 when we first started, didn’t need a script. They were just teenagers, being themselves
HUNGER: In retrospect, how do you feel about your children growing up in the limelight?
Sharon: Kind of bittersweet. It was an unbelievable experience for them, but like everything, there’s a downside. Nothing is perfect.
HUNGER: So do you think that some aspects of the self must remain private?
Sharon: You know what, for me, it’s totally down to the individual. But if you open Pandora’s box, beware of what might come out!
HUNGER: It feels like a lot of your intimate moments are still shared — on The Talk [American talk show that Sharon co-hosts], for example.
Sharon: Yeah, I have the luxury of having a platform every day, with a bunch of wonderful women, where we can share what’s going on in our lives.
HUNGER: Do you think that people don’t share enough?
Sharon: No, I think they share too much. They share too much of the shit that’s not important.
HUNGER: Do you feel that what you discuss on The Talk is important?
Sharon: Not really. I can’t say that my stuff is important. But we talk to guests, and we talk to each other. It’s not a reality TV show; it’s a talk show. And I don’t think that what comes out of my mouth is going to change the world at all.
HUNGER: The Osbournes first aired in 2002, before the explosion of social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook, which have changed the way people view and interact with television. Do you think the reception would be different now?
Sharon: No, I think the reaction would have been the same, because it was so new. It was groundbreaking at the time.
HUNGER: Absolutely. You’ve been living in America for almost 40 years now; do you still consider Britain your home?
Sharon: I’ve been going back and forth, but we still have our base in England. It really is our home. We work here [in America] and then we go home.
Ozzy: I’ve contemplated whether to sell up and stay here, but I can’t let go of England. I just can’t. I’m English and I’m proud to be English!
HUNGER: Ozzy, you’re working on a new solo album. How have you kept your music relevant for so long?
Ozzy: I don’t know. I don’t understand any of it, you know. I just do it.
HUNGER: Do you think you’re fairly portrayed by the media?
Sharon: You know what, I have no idea of my perception out in the world. No idea at all. All I care about is how my family and friends perceive me. Because I’m not going out there to convince the world of who I am or what I do. I don’t have to, you know? I really, really don’t have to.
Ozzy: I remember when we were doing the TV show, my son Jack said to me, “Dad can I ask you a question? Do you mind people laughing at you? Or do you prefer them to laugh with you?” And I replied, “As long as they’re laughing I don’t give a shit!”
HUNGER: Did you vote in the election?
Sharon: Well, that’s one thing that I personally don’t do. It is of no interest to me because I feel so strongly that there still hasn’t been a leader with strength, direction and enough balls to lead a country. So I don’t vote.
HUNGER: What about in the US?
Ozzy: They’re all the same; I don’t see any difference. They say one thing and do another. They’re all full of shit.
HUNGER: Sharon, as a fellow matriarch, what do you think of Hilary Clinton?
Sharon: I love Hilary because she’s got strength. She’s a pit bull, and whether or not I agree with her politics, I like that about her. And she’s got great knowledge and experience outside of America, in terms of what’s going on in the world, which few candidates have. And in the world we live in today, that’s really important.
HUNGER: You’ve worked as a woman in the music industry for over 35 years. Have you seen any changes in the way women are treated? What about the TV industry?
Sharon: I’ve seen huge changes. [In the music industry] 30 years ago, the only thing you could really do as a woman was be a receptionist, or a secretary. Because it wasn’t even “assistant” in those days, it was a “secretary”, and that’s all you could get. People in that industry really didn’t like dealing with a woman. But now there are female CEOs, women running record companies and great female managers. It’s a whole new world out there for women in the music industry, thank God! But as far as the TV industry is concerned, it’s still way, way back in the dark ages. Men get paid more than women, and I just don’t think it’s fair.
Ozzy: If a woman can do what a man can do, why should she be paid any less? A woman doing the same job as a guy should get the same money as a guy. I feel very strongly about that.
HUNGER: Do you think it will change?
Sharon: I think it will change in time, yes. I mean, everything does, nothing stays the same. And look at what’s happened to the music business. Thirty years ago it was like, “Oh, my God, a woman? Are you crazy?” but it has changed, and I hope it will be that way in TV. When I started out as Ozzy’s manager it was really, really tough. I’m not sitting on the pity pot here, but it was — being a woman but also being my partner’s manager. In those days the attitude was like, “Oh, God, we’ve got to suffer the wife”. That was the first thing that came out of some people’s mouths. I had to be quicker and smarter than the people I was dealing with, otherwise I would have died out there with the mentality of [people in the] music industry.
Ozzy: I remember one day the head of a record company said to Sharon, “Why don’t you just fuck off, go home, have babies, and clean the house?” That’s what she had to deal with. They couldn’t negotiate with women back then. People freaked out when they saw that my manager was a woman, let alone my wife! It was really bad, you know!
Sharon: But not only in America. In Japan it was terrible, and in certain parts of Europe… it was just awful. Japan was horribly hard to deal with.
Ozzy: Back then in Japan the woman had to walk strictly behind the man! You suddenly realise how things change — you plod along and you just take it for granted, but Sharon had a hell of a hard time. I don’t think there were any other women managers then, full stop.
HUNGER: You’ve been together and worked together for so long, and everyone says couples shouldn’t work together. Why has it worked for you?
Ozzy: Well, my wife’s got a strong left hook! And her left boot ain’t so bad either [laughs]. My wife is very good at doing her job, and she pushes me in the right direction. Ah, you know, it’s rock ’n’ roll — you rock and you roll, you just get on with it. I think we’ve all made mistakes along the way, but we just work through it, you know, it’s life. And to be honest, I’ve never thought of anything else. I’ve never gone, “I need a guy” or “I need this or that”. I just go along with it! I mean, the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, but I’ve no reason to jump the fence. I’m so happy with what I’ve got. I love my wife!
HUNGER: No magic solution then?
Ozzy: It’s no big deal. There’s no mystery or magic solution. We’ve had our rows, we’ve had our fights, we’ve had our upsets, we’ve had our sicknesses and whatever. But you don’t jump off the boat when the water starts getting a bit rough, you hold on! I get the impression that people over here [in LA] think that getting married is something to do for a weekend, the next week you get divorced! I’ve never even thought about getting divorced from my wife.
HUNGER: What makes a good celebrity marriage?
Ozzy: You leave your ego at the door when you go in the house! When we’re at home we’re man and wife, and when we’re out we’re doing what we do for a living. It’s just a job. If you’re a trash man you don’t go and bring trash into the house, you leave it at the door. You just do your job and go home.