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Enlisting in Reality

June 02, 2002

Two big enlistments occurred recently, both very American and maybe even revealing about the cultural cacophony that survives in this country, war or no war.

Rocker Ozzy Osbourne's bizarre family grandly enlisted for 20 more MTV episodes of the alleged reality within its Beverly Hills mansion. And Pat Tillman, a 25-year-old hard-hitting, independent-minded safety for the Arizona Cardinals, quietly enlisted in the reality of becoming an Army Ranger. One party takes millions of viewers (and a few million dollars) into its private world, while the other forsakes millions of dollars for the privacy of not being viewed by millions of spectators.

This year the unscripted profane family "comedy" drew the largest number of viewers ever to MTV, which isn't saying a whole lot. But it sure boosts the cable ad rates to have more people willing to eavesdrop on the tattooed Ozzy arguing with his (bleep) wife and shouting at his (bleep) kids. And the exposure probably won't hurt other Ozzy products, including a traveling rock fest for the singer, who, so the story goes, once bit off the head of a bat on stage.

Tillman could earn more than a million a year for knocking down other large men on six months of Sundays for millions of football fans. Now, he'll have to wear a beret and will gross a little over a grand a month to get shot at. Hello, Tillman, who's your accountant?

He doesn't know how to play the publicity game either. To ensure privacy, Tillman asked his employers for a day's head start before releasing word of his decision. He's always been different--graduating magna cum laude, shunning the loud clothes, cars and lifestyle of some pro athletes. Now, he and his brother Kevin have opted for three years of national service where TV cameras don't usually go.

Cameras seem to follow "The Osbournes" everywhere, which seemed to grab the attention of a cult following Tuesday nights. This success prompted E! Entertainment to sign up Anna Nicole Smith as a "reality TV" subject. Better known for posing and suing, the ex-Playboy model and current oil heiress says she's excited about being followed all over by cameras.

Meanwhile, MTV promises three Osbourne specials this summer, including "a very special dinner" with the family. But probably no reality coverage of the camouflaged Tillmans downing field rations somewhere.

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