HOLLYWOOD — Is it any wonder that MTV’s “The Osbournes” is a boffo success?
It has all the elements of a terrific sitcom: A dysfunctional but loving family, annoying-but-unseen neighbors, raunchy situations and snappy one-liners. (Grumpily banging around in the kitchen, Mom Sharon grumbles, “Martha Stewart can lick my scrotum!” Pause. “Do I have a scrotum?”)
Everybody in the show is eccentric. Even the cat has herpes.
But audiences have been watching wacky sitcoms for years. This one has two key differences: It’s real. And it’s about celebrities.
Gameshows such as “Who Wants to be a Millionaire,” “Weakest Link” and “Fear Factor” have discovered that ratings zoom when they feature all-star editions. So why not have more all-star reality-TV skeins?
Of course the celebs we’d love to see wouldn’t allow cameras into their homes. The Clintons, Russell Crowe, Tom Cruise, Michael Eisner or Robert Downey Jr. would break ratings records, but up-close-and-personal looks at this crew are not bloody likely.
However, there are other notables in Hollywood who would be worth watching.
“The Great Race: Pacoima” — A group of celebs undergo a series of gripping challenges. Michael Jackson, Barbra Streisand, Madonna and Rupert Murdoch will go to Albertson’s supermarket, Jiff-E-Lube and Sears, and stand in line at the post office — in other words, things they haven’t done in decades. Viewers will thrill as the celebs’ nerves begin to crack.
“SAG Fear Factor” — In the past few months, the guild has suffered through election irregularities, still-simmering tensions over the 2000 ad strike, backbiting over unlisted phone numbers and hysteria over the ATA deal. As for a premise of the new TV series: Who knows? But all SAG members are actors. They love high drama. Believe me, they’ll come up with some new crisis every week.
“D.C. Big Brother” — A group of ordinary people are locked in a Washington house for 13 weeks. Every day, members of Congress and the FCC will drop by to debate duopoly, digital conversion and hi-def. At the end of the series, the lone house member who has stayed awake for all this is declared the winner.
“Sequined Survivor” — Viewers can watch Liza Minnelli lose 50 pounds, battle bitter relatives, write thank-you notes to 850 wedding guests, thwart jewel thieves and hold a series of press conferences — and that’s just the first episode! In the next 12 weeks, Liza will undergo a series of crushing health and personal dilemmas, and make four triumphant comebacks.
“Studio Survivor” — With too many housekeeping deals, Disney each week votes a different shingle off the lot. As the producer fires his staff and scrambles to find a new home, hidden cameras capture all the fun.
“Fashion Emergencies” — For 13 weeks, viewers will watch Gwyneth Paltrow try to choose a gown for the next Oscarcast. On the series finale, the actress will explain what was going through her head when she chose this year’s dress.