In Depth

Osbournes Readying Variety Series

Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne -- who pioneered the comedy-reality format with their landmark MTV series -- are headed back to television, this time with a weekly variety show.

“American Idol” producer FremantleMedia North America is behind the project, which has already been pitched to multiple broadcast networks, according to two sources familiar with the idea. All four major networks have expressed strong interest in the project, making it likely it will end up with a home shortly.

FMNA landed the rights to do the Osbourne show in large part due to its relationship with Mrs. Osbourne, who is a judge on the company's "America's Got Talent."

In addition to Mr. and Mrs. Osbourne, offspring Kelly and Jack will participate in the show in some capacity. The foursome became massive celebrities in 2002, soon after their MTV series bowed.

Details of the project are being kept under wraps until the show is sold, but it’s unlikely the Osbournes project would simply aim to re-create the bad comedy sketches and elaborate production numbers that characterized “Sonny and Cher” or the many other variety hours of the 1960s and ’70s.

Instead, it's expected the show will borrow heavily from international variety formats that have worked well in recent years, from "Sabado Gigante" to Germany's "Wanna Bet?" Look for elements of comedy, musical performance and competition-style games.

Many reality industry observers have been predicting a resurgence of variety shows, which once dominated network TV but have been largely absent from broadcast TV in the past two decades.

Some analysts have compared FMNA/19 Entertainment’s “Idol” to a variety show, while the results episodes of ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars” have morphed into something of a variety show, complete with production numbers and musical guests.

“America’s Got Talent” also has elements of a variety show—but it’s driven by a competition angle.

A few years ago, ABC also had success with a couple of specials starring former husband-and-wife Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey.

Mrs. Osbourne got the most mileage from “The Osbournes,” which ran for three years. She hosted her own short-lived syndicated talk show and spent four years working with Simon Cowell on ITV’s “The X Factor,” turning that show into the U.K.’s version of “American Idol.”

Mrs. Osbourne announced earlier this month that she was leaving “The X Factor” after four years in order to concentrate on other projects, including some in the U.S.

Kelly Osbourne, meanwhile, launched a pop music career, releasing a moderately successful cover of “Papa Don’t Preach.” She also began acting, landing a role in ABC’s teen drama “Life as We Know It.”

Jack Osbourne, after battling drug addiction, appeared in several U.S. and U.K. reality shows.

FMNA has been steadily building on its “Idol” success. It produces NBC’s successful “America’s Got Talent” and just launched a new “Family Feud” on the network. Other FMNA prime-time series include “The Price Is Right Million Dollar Spectacular,” “The Janice Dickinson Modeling Agency,” “Rock the Cradle” and “Farmer Wants a Wife,” as well as a new version of “Match Game” headed to TBS.

FMNA and the Osbournes are represented by the William Morris Agency. Morris signed the family within the last month.

(5:25 p.m.: Updated throughout)