If the war on terrorism has not obviated the culture wars, expect some family-values commentator to cry that MTV's The Osbournes (Tuesdays, starting March 5, 10:30 p.m. E.T.) is leading America further down the road to hell already well trod by its protagonist: Ozzy Osbourne, the shock rocker who once bit the heads off bats onstage. On this winning "situation reality" show, shot inside the Osbourne family's L.A. mansion, teenage sis calls her brother a "f___ing loser." Mom tells the kids to "shut the f___ up and go to bed." And Dad, exasperated, says, "I love you more than life itself. But you're all f___ing mad."
These are not things a nice family says. Except that the Osbournes prove to be nice indeed, even if, as we see them moving into their new home, the movers carry boxes labeled DEVIL HEADS. The kids have money and a rock-star dad, but they seem grounded. The family spars constantly--and colorfully--but it spars together.
Real life has provided a great cast (even if the British accents are so thick, it can be like watching a Ken Loach movie). With dear, lumbering Dad (seemingly boggled by his own wealth); strong-willed wife Sharon (Ozzy's manager); independent-minded daughter Kelly (with dyed-pink hair, like a girl-power answer to Ozzy's black-clad metal-god persona); and chip-off-the-old-block Jack (a likable oddball with a thing for bayonets), the Osbournes are like the Soprano family without the guns. TV thrives on facile distinctions between "functional" and "dysfunctional," but this family is delightfully functional in its own bleeping-mad way.
--By James Poniewozik