Have you ever been around people who don't know when to quit? You like them, but they never know when to let a thing die. You say, "Have you watched 'The Osbournes'?" and they do their Ozzy impression, and it's funny. Then they do Ozzy stealing your fries. By the time they're doing Ozzy as Obi-Wan Kenobi you wish you'd never met them and, seeing no end in sight, you pull out your pager, scrutinize the blank screen and say, "Oh, look at that, it's the hospital, I have to go," even though you work at the dog track.
The beating of dead horses is worse when whole industries do it and they all do: No one would be surprised if there was a Starbucks on the sun or a rap version of "Edelweiss." TV is definitely no exception. No success can ever stand alone in elegance. It has to have a dozen little zeros trotting along behind it, and I'm not talking about its revenue. "Survivor" was a weird success (yeah, I watched it), but it had to be followed by "Big Brother" and "The Mole." If you missed these, recapture their intrigue by sitting in front of a metronome until you begin to cry.
Now, "The Osbournes" is huge and rightly so. Ozzy's great to watch having a constant look of surprise on his face, as though he's stunned by every minute he doesn't fall over dead. It's fun and, naturally, with the creative spirit of a Xerox machine, TV will soon offer us other shows that follow in Ozzy's footsteps.
The trouble is, no one can follow in Ozzy's footsteps. Few people can duplicate that level of weird just by standing there, especially those who are reportedly going to be the focus of the next batch of home-voyeur shows. "Entertainment Weekly" reported that the two stars MTV is considering tracking next are P. Diddy and Brandy. J.Lo seems like the only thing to ever have made P. Diddy interesting and, as for Brandy, monitoring her pregnancy is supposed to be the focus of her show. It's hard to believe watching her dart off to the toilet every 10 minutes is going to make good TV.
The pièce de résistance, though, is Anna Nicole Smith who is supposed to have been up for an Ozzy-esque show since before Ozzy aired.
Anna Nicole was a stunning model 10 years ago but generally models aren't that great to watch even if they have a script in their hands. Unless they show her sifting through the Palm Springs hospital terminal ward for potential husbands, it's hard to imagine it being that riveting. I can't really think of any celebrity whose life seems worth watching, except for Ashton Kutcher. They could put a still photo of him on TV and I'd watch it. I'd also order the transcript in braille so I could feel it up when things got slow. But not many people seem that watch-worthy.
Interestingly, this whole TV-voyeurism thing is coming at a time when the FBI may be on the verge of finding way too many people watchable. In an effort to ferret out terrorists, the Department of Justice has given the FBI more leeway to spy on people on the Internet — and in libraries and churches, whether there is any evidence that they are criminals or not, mainly because lots of terrorists hid behind the sanctity of mosques to conduct business.
With spying not only a security measure but also a pleasant national diversion, it just seems somehow like the two could be put together. I'm not suggesting making a prime-time show out of spying on private citizens. But if the FBI did find a cell of terrorists, I doubt there's a person in the country who wouldn't watch surveillance footage of them going about their daily routine of plotting sinister strategies, especially if they stopped to play with the dogs or tell their kids not to do drugs, like Ozzy.
There are probably a lot of situations more socially relevant than "The Love Cruise" (yeah, I watched it) that people would really want to look at 24/7. I wouldn't mind seeing what W. is up to all day, if he naps frequently and has his memos read to him, perhaps in bedtime-story form. The Florida governor's race is coming up, and I'd love to be in on the strategy sessions concerning how the GOP is going to make sure all our votes count this time: "Only tell them they're felons if they really are felons?" "Feh. What else have you got?"
"We're working on an octopus ballot for Palm Beach County." "Excellent! I love that idea! Where's the dog?" It's an idea. But it probably won't work out unless we can get government to be as interesting as an aging rock star with a dubious past. Now all we have to do is get James Brown in as Secretary of State ...