Ozzy Osbourne was no stranger to reinvention, having launched a massively successful solo career in the early '80s after being fired from Black Sabbath in 1979. But on March 5, 2002, the Prince of Darkness embarked on a new venture that marked his most radical career departure yet: reality TV star.

The Osbournes had already made their reality TV debut in 2000 on the first episode of MTV Cribs, which found Ozzy ambling around his Los Angeles mansion and showing off his collection of Satanic artifacts and bibles. Osbourne's teenage children Kelly and Jack were also featured prominently in the episode, with Kelly outing her father as a Britney Spears fan.

Their chemistry was obvious, and it prompted MTV to pitch a full-fledged reality series about the family, simply titled The Osbournes.

It was a winning concept: Pull the curtain back on one of metal's most legendarily debauched stars and show Osbourne in all his bumbling, domestic glory. The man who once bit the head off a bat onstage and urinated on the Alamo Cenotaph could now be seen slipping on dog poop and arguing with wife and manager Sharon Osbourne about using a bubble machine during a gig.

The Osbournes succeeded where so many family-based reality shows fail because of Osbourne's unfiltered candor. But he was also putting his credibility on the line and risked alienating the fan base he'd spent decades cultivating.

"Ozzy had years and years of a career behind him," Sharon Osbourne told the Ringer in 2022. "He had credibility, and what were the fans going to think of him? He had everything to lose, and we had nothing to lose. Who were we? I was a businesswoman, but it was behind the scenes. That's the reason I wasn't in Cribs. I was in my office."

Despite any potential reservations, viewers proved eager to support Osbourne's TV career. The Osbournes premiered on March 5, 2002, and enjoyed almost instant success. It became the highest-rated cable series in MTV history, averaging 5.3 million viewers during the first season and surpassing 7.2 million viewers in its season finale, according to Nielsen Media Research data.

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The success of the show prompted MTV to pursue more seasons. The network inked a deal with Miramax Films to release the series on DVD and VHS, and the Osbournes signed a contract for additional episodes that was valued at more than $20 million.

Increased fame and fortune was followed by a slew of problems for the family, which had morphed into a media circus. "The show had lost its earnestness," Jack Osbourne told the Ringer of future seasons. "It wasn't that we were faking, but it had become a show – whereas early on it was an experiment."

Ozzy, too, said he regretted the impact the show had on his family. "You go to bed one day and you wake up [the next] and the world's completely different," he told the Quietus in 2010. "Everywhere there's fucking cameras, you get attacked by the fucking things. The kids couldn't handle it. My wife couldn't handle it: she had colon cancer."

And although Osbourne was purportedly in recovery from drugs and alcohol while filming the show, he would often indulge in private. "When the filming ended, I'd go in my little bunker and smoke a pipe and drink about a case of beer every day," Ozzy told the Daily Record in 2009. His wife added: "As Ozzy will tell you, the three years that we were filming, Ozzy was stoned the whole time. He wasn't sober for one day."

The Osbournes aired its final episode on March 21, 2005, and went off the air after four seasons. A few family spin-offs have emerged, including Ozzy & Jack's World Detour and The Osbournes Want to Believe, in which Jack tries to convince his parents of the existence of paranormal activity. While the flagship Osbournes series was a smashing success and major influence on future reality programming, Osbourne is not keen to revisit it.

"On the one hand it was phenomenal, on the other hand I had to watch my family [suffer]," Ozzy told the Quietus. "But we invented a new form of television. We started the ball rolling for all these fuckin' new shows now. Would we do it again? I dunno. I don't think so."

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