Pop quiz: What do Ozzy Osbourne and his now-famous family have in common with Olivia Newton-John, Roy Clark, David Soul and Sinbad? Well, nothing at all, actually. But that all changes tonight when the Osbournes join the long, sometimes strange list of celebrities to host the American Music Awards.
The first family of heavy metal will exchange its familiar MTV home for a night out with ABC and Dick Clark's venerable music awards show. For Ozzy, Sharon, Kelly and Jack Osbourne, tonight's show is a chance to add another big log to their wild bonfire of exposure (their MTV unscripted home-life series, scores of magazine covers, the Ozzfest tour, the T-shirts, the bobble-head dolls, etc.). Clark, the executive producer of the AMAs, has already seen the benefit on his end of the deal.
"There has been more talk, more conversation, more buzz about the show than with anybody we've had in recent years," Clark said. "We're very excited. Now on the practical matter of how we handle this? Well, I'm very nervous." Clark says that with a laugh--he may not be that anxious, but he's also well aware that the Osbournes' reputation for unpredictability and familial penchant for a certain f-word are part of the allure of booking them. "Yes, people want to see what will they do," Clark said.
A similar incentive, though, got 18.6 million viewers, many of them young people, to tune in last Monday night to "Joe Millionaire," and that total trumps the 16 million viewers for last year's AMAs. The Osbourne family values will also be going against another type of math challenge--the AMA's audience has eroded in each of the last three years. On the plus side, though, last year the show trailed its longtime February rival, the Grammys, by only 3 million viewers--good news considering the gap had swelled to 10.5 million in 2001.
The AMA's music guests include, surprise, Kelly Osbourne performing her song "Shut Up," as well as slightly more established names such as Shania Twain, Ja Rule, Christina Aguilera, Nickelback and a duet between Elton John and Tim McGraw. Another Osbourne surprise: Rarely seen daughter Aimee Osbourne, who demurred from participating in the MTV series, will be a presenter. The legend grows.
The American Music Awards, which will be held at the Shrine Auditorium, air live on the East Coast and a taped version (with any necessary bleeps) will air locally at 8 p.m.
-- Geoff Boucher