On this day in 1948, John Michael “Ozzy” Osbourne, the heavy-metal musician and star of the pioneering reality TV program The Osbournes, which originally aired from 2002 to 2005, is born in Birmingham, England.
Osbourne first gained fame in the 1970s as a founding member and the lead vocalist of the heavy-metal band Black Sabbath. After being fired from the group in the late 1970s, he embarked on a successful solo career. In the mid-1990s, he and his wife Sharon launched Ozzfest, a popular annual tour of heavy-metal and rock acts. As a performer, Osbourne became infamous for biting the heads off a dove and a bat onstage and was also accused of promoting suicide and Satanism through some of his lyrics.
Osbourne’s fame widened beyond the music world with the debut of The Osbournes, a reality TV show featuring the rocker and his family that debuted on MTV on March 5, 2002. The idea for the show reportedly sprang from an episode of MTV’s Cribs, which featured the feisty, frequently foul-mouthed Osbourne clan at home. The Osbournes focused on Ozzy’s relationship with his spunky wife Sharon and the couple’s two teenagers, Kelly and Jack; a third sibling, Aimee, opted not to participate in the show. Filmed largely at the Osbournes’ Beverly Hills, California mansion, the show covered a range of topics, from Ozzy’s battles with a vacuum cleaner to his efforts to stay sober; to Sharon’s fight against colon cancer; to Jack and Kelly’s partying and often-bratty behavior; to the family’s pack of misbehaving pets.
The Osbournes, which aired its last original episode on March 21, 2005, proved to be one of the highest-rated series in MTV’s history and spawned a string of reality TV shows about celebrities on various networks, including MTV’s Newlyweds: Nick and Jessica, with pop stars Nick Lachey and Jessica Simpson, which aired from 2003 to 2005, and Hogan Knows Best, which featured pro wrestler Hulk Hogan and his wife and children and debuted in 2005 on Vh1. Gene Simmons of the rock group Kiss starred with his family in Gene Simmons Family Jewels, which premiered in 2006 on A&E, while Denise Richards, the actress and former wife of Charlie Sheen, appeared in a show about her professional and domestic life, Denise Richards: It’s Complicated, which debuted in 2008 on E!.
In addition to turning Ozzy Osbourne into a household name and sparking a boom in celebrity-focused reality TV, The Osbournes transformed his wife and longtime manager Sharon into a star in her own right. From 2003 to 2004, she hosted her own TV talk show and later went on to make numerous guest appearances on various TV programs and to serve as a judge on the TV competition America’s Got Talent.