The Ozzy & Sharon Variety Funtime Special Hour

Fox is making good on its threat to do an Osbournes variety show, but — perhaps spooked by the meltdown of NBC’s plans for a Rosie O’Donnell variety show — they’re taking it slow:

The network says it will premiere its new show “Osbournes: Reloaded” at 9 p.m. ET Tuesday, March 31, following “American Idol.” That all but guarantees the show a lead-in audience of 20 million-plus people.

But the network isn’t going to keep the show there on a weekly basis. Instead, FOX says the show — which will feature Ozzy, Sharon, Jack and Kelly Osbourne in a new spin on the old variety-show format — will air as “a series of one-hour specials” later in the season. That’s code for “no regular time period.”

There has been no word on which of the Osbournes will refuse to show up for this thing and get replaced by Geri Reischl.

The choice of former reality stars as the stars of a variety show provides sort of a clue as to why the networks might want to revive variety. As reality shows (particularly new ones) are no longer as popular as they once were, variety is seen by the networks as the next best thing. You have to pay someone to write it, so it’s not quite as good from their point of view, but it’s still pretty cheap to produce. Fox is having limited success with reality, so of course they want to do a cheaper American Idol. I think, though, that as with Rosie, they’re going to be unpleasantly surprised by how intolerant viewers are of variety stars who don’t actually do anything well. I’m not talking about Ozzy here, of course; but putting Sharon on the stage is like moving Simon Cowell from the judge’s chair to the stage. Sonny Bono may not have been a great talent, but at least he did stuff.

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