All Aboard The Crazy Train

Kelly Osbourne just got a tattoo. It's no big deal--a little heart tucked high on her left hip. "If I show you, you can't kill me," she tells her dad. Mr. Osbourne takes one look--and wants to kill her. "You've got that there for the rest of your f---ing life!" he says. Kelly can't believe it. After all, her father has tattoos on every limb. He even has a letter stenciled on each knuckle: O-Z-Z-Y. That's right. Ozzy Osbourne, a man who bit the head off a bat in the middle of a concert, is going ballistic because his 16-year-old daughter got a tiny tattoo. "You're not going to say anything!" Kelly pleads. "I have to," Ozzy replies. Then he does just what you'd expect the legendary Black Sabbath frontman to do. He phones his wife and rats out his own kid.

Is this Ozzy Osbourne, or Ozzie Nelson? They're not as different as you might think, except that the one with tattoos is downright hilarious. He's the star of "The Osbournes," a sort of rock-and-roll "Real World" that debuts this week on MTV. There are two things about "The Osbournes" that make it the best reality show--and one of the best comedies--to come along in a while. One is watching the high priest of headbangers wrestle with the same problems--his wife, his two teenage kids, the cable TV--as the rest of us. "When I say to my kids, 'Pick that up,' they go, 'F--k you'," says Osbourne in a phone interview between concerts in Alaska. "My fans are going to go, 'How can you speak to Ozzy Osbourne like that?' " Ozzy and family got their show after a gorgeously creepy appearance on "Cribs," MTV's celebrity house tour, and home decor plays a big role in "The Osbournes," too. In the first episode, they're moving into a new Beverly Hills mansion. "The last house, we lived next to Pat Boone," Ozzy tells NEWSWEEK. "You may say that Pat Boone is a nerd, but he was a great neighbor." You can imagine that the new neighbors might not become such big Ozzy fans, however. The boxes we see carted into the house on the first episode say: POTS AND PANS, LINENS and DEAD THINGS. It's like the Munsters are moving in.

But beyond their macabre sense of humor and interior decorating, the Osbournes are just plain funny. Don't be surprised if their unscripted lines--"Studies show a teenager's brain doesn't become functional until after 10:30," says Ozzy's son, Jack--find their way to sitcoms starting next week. That is, when you can understand what they're saying. Ozzy's British accent and world-class mumble often make him tough to follow. "If the people can't understand what the f--k I'm saying, they'll send in letters to MTV and then they'll subtitle it," he says. And then there are the words you couldn't subtitle at all. Like all good rockers, the Osbournes cuss nonstop. "People who don't swear will go, 'These people are f---ing heathens'," says Ozzy, who gets bleeped almost more than he talks. "We could have gone, 'Good morning, daaaaling. How was your day?' That would have been like f--kupsville. With our family, you take the good with the bad."

And the picture that emerges from "The Osbournes" is remarkably good, even--dare we say it?--wholesome. "Through all the craziness, you see that there's a family that loves each other and are really close," says Ozzy's wife, Sharon. "I think that today, and especially in this industry, to find a family that wants to spend time together is unusual." Isn't this fuzzy Ozzy stuff bad for business? After all, his career is built on his reputation as rock's prince of darkness. Ozzy's not worried. "People have this misconstrued idea that I live in some kind of Bavarian castle and I sleep upside down chewing bats' heads all night long," he says. "What I'm trying to get across is the real me, the real Oz." Besides, there's enough mayhem on "The Osbournes" to keep his fans happy. Like the time when the family gets into a fight with the neighbors because they were playing their music too loud--that's the neighbors who were too loud. "My mom just kind of went nuts. She threw a roasted ham at them, some fruit, bread," Kelly says of an upcoming episode. Sharon does not think this is her finest TV moment. "I was throwing cat s--t at them from the kitty-litter tray," she says. "At the end I thought I was quite insane." Not as crazy as anybody who changes the channel.