It’s the perfect sitcom setup: Dad plops down in the comfy chair and turns on the TV to unwind with the History Channel—only he can’t figure out the dang remote and gets stuck on the weather Channel. Cue the laugh track, right? Not on MTV’s hit series The Osbournes, where Dad curses to himself in a slurred British accent before his son comes to the rescue.
Father Ozzy Osbourne doesn’t know best. In fact, it’s anyone’s guess what the hangdog heavy-metal god knows on The Osbournes, a 13-week documentary series about the domestic life of a man previously best known for biting off the head of a bat. Before more than 5 million viewers, Ozzy, 53, has morphed into the befuddled (if tattooed) head of a rambunctious, foul-mouthed family. As Ozzy putters around his Beverly Hills mansion, taking out the trash or doodling at the kitchen table, his wife and manager, Sharon, 50, keeps the peace between Jack, 16, and Kelly, 17. (The oldest, Aimee, 18, moved out before filming started.) “I love you all,” Ozzy tells Jack, “but you’re all f——mad.”
Mad as they may be, the weird appeal of the Osbournes is that, at heart, they’re like any other clan. “Watching the Osbournes,” says Happy Days star Henry Winkler, 56, “you watch your own family.” Which is why PEOPLE asked Winkler and other family-series vets to compare how their shows might have coped with the little storms that daily rock the Osbournes.
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The Situation Oh no! Though house-broken, the family pooch leaves calling cards from room to room.
The Cunningham response “The Cunninghams would put the dog on a leash in the backyard, or they would have had the dog trained before the situation got out of control.”
The Seaver response “Seaver, who was a psychiatrist, would have reprimanded his children. It’s the child’s role in the family to take care of the dog.”
The Bradford response “Tom Bradford would have gone to the children and explained their responsibilities in caring for the dog. Then he’d have rolled up a newspaper, taken the dog to where it soiled the floor and hit it on the head.”
The Osbourne response Sharon calls in Tamara, a dog therapist, to treat Lola, a bulldog who fouls the house with alarming frequency. Ozzie shakes his head and refers to the trainer as “a [bleep]ing fruitloop.”
The Situation Mom takes daughter out to the mall and lets her shop like crazy–on Dad’s credit card. Just wait till he finds out!
The Cunningham response “That problem has been going on since men and women and their children moved from the plains and into caves. How many times have you heard Howard Cunningham talking to Marian about shopping? Too many.”
The Seaver response “If the kids overspent, they would have to pay it back from their allowance after having a sit-down. Or if Mrs. Seaver did this, she and her husband would have a late-night sit-down in their pajamas about setting a bad example.”
The Bradford response “Tom would make them pay it off and cancel the card. It’s too hard to make money, and if you let people get away with this, they will go even further the next time.”
The Osbourne response A lie, of course. Kelly tells Ozzy they bought some things for his bathroom and he’s none the wiser. Says Sharon: “Kelly and I cover each other’s a—-.”
The Situation Where the heck did Dad put his shotgun?
The Situation Where the heck did Dad put his shotgun?
The Cunningham response “In the ’50s they didn’t have to have a weapon in the house. In this day and age, I wonder what arsenal the Cunninghams would have? Howard might have opened a chain of hardware stores and just moved his family out into the country.”
The Seaver response “The Seavers would have properly registered all firearms. They would have obeyed all the rules about firearms. And they would also have gotten training.”
The Bradford response “Tom Bradford and I are pretty much alike. I think the only people who should have guns are the police.”
The Osbourne response Moving into his new home, surrounded by boxes marked “Dead Things” and “Devil Heads,” Ozzy finds a rifle. “What do you want me to do with the gun, Sharon?” he asks. “I’ll put it under the bed….”
The Situation When the neighbors won’t turn down their music, how should the family turn up the heat?
The Cunningham response “Mr. Cunningham would have gone over to his neighbors and had a family meeting with them and talked it out over cake.”
The Seaver response “Dr. Seaver would have sent four or five e-mails asking his neighbors to be quiet because his kids were studying or it was too late.”
The Bradford response Although Mr. Bradford would have gone and knocked politely on their door, “if his own family went too far in getting the neighbors to stop, Tom would have gone next door and apologized himself.”
The Osbourne response Sharon, driven to distraction by “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands” coming from next door, flings a ham over the fence, cackling, “This is a picture of his wife’s a–!” The neighbors call the cops.
The Situation Stop the laugh track: Junior admits to smoking pot.
The Cunningham response “When Richie Cunningham drank too many beers, his parents sat him down and explained their concerns. If you live on this earth,you find out that we are all the same.”
The Seaver response “If it is a first offense, you ground them and have a talk. The second offense would call for counseling.”
The Bradford response “Tom would have told his son that if he started smoking pot, it would lead to harder drugs and he would have gotten hooked. Pot is the beginning of the end, if you look at what happens to addicts.”
The Osbourne response At last! Ozzy gets a chance to deliver fatherly advice, drawn from vast experience. “It ain’t gonna lead to anywhere but bad places,” he says, dead serious for once. “Look at me.”