Ozzy Osbourne and his son Jack are gawking at a hulking M24 Chaffee army tank in a Nokesville, Virginia, field, as its owner gets ready to fire a blank missile into the woods. Bang! As the smoke clears from the gun nozzle, Ozzy turns to Jack – his hand on his chest – and says, “You felt that, didn’t you?”
The scene plays out in the first episode of Ozzy & Jack’s World Detour, a new History Channel show that premieres this weekend and finds father-and-son visiting historical sites around the world and doing an even mix of goofing off and learning. They visited the Virginia Museum of Military Vehicles – the United States’ largest collection of vintage, World War II tanks – on their way to Jamestown, Virginia, the first English settlement in the Americas and (of interest to Ozzy) a place of cannibalism. Their travels for the show also took them to Stonehenge, Cuba, Roswell, New Mexico, and the Alamo, among other locales.
But while a year and a half have passed since the Osbournes began their big return to television, Ozzy can still feel that tank blast.
“It was just like a big firecracker,” the Black Sabbath frontman tells Rolling Stone.
Jack agrees. “That’s the only thing you could really compare it to,” he says. “It was like this really deep concussion. You could properly feel it.”
Since The Osbournes, Jack – now age 30 – has been working behind the scenes in the television and film industries. When he looks back on the series that catapulted the rest of his family to Ozzy-level stratospheres of fame, he laughs and says, “I was a teenager and kind of angsty … I was kind of a dick,” but he’s happy he did it. In part, it taught him that the people behind the camera have more control than those in front of the lens. He’s since gone on to produce the documentary Bed Stuy: Do or Die, the National Geographic series Alpha Dogs and a few docs about Ozzy and Black Sabbath.
The idea for Ozzy & Jack’s World Detour came when Jack was spitballing project ideas with a producer friend of his who suggested, simply, a history program with his dad, age 67. Usually when people suggest television shows involving Ozzy, Jack turns them down. “My dad just doesn’t do TV,” he says. “He won’t do it.” But he decided to pitch it, since some of his earliest memories of his father are watching historical shows on TV. He was shocked to find out that his father was into it.
Ozzy, as it turns out, has always been a history buff. “I was born in ’48,” he says, “and as a young kid, we used to play on bomb sites. For many years after World War II, I’d watch films about it on TV and the insanity of it all just got me interested.”
With his dad aboard, Jack began mapping out the places he wanted to visit – the Alamo and Stonehenge topped his list – and they began scheduling shoots between tour dates of Black Sabbath’s farewell tour. “I don’t get a break for myself,” Ozzy says with a laugh. “But it’s OK. We’re getting on great.”
The two Osbournes traveled with a crew of about 25 people, some of whom did location scouting, and they’d typically arrive with about 10. One of the producers, Greg Johnston, previously worked on The Osbournes. (Incidentally, Jack says he didn’t invite his mother Sharon or sister Kelly along since they’ve established themselves already and have commitments to other projects.)
The travels were largely low-key, with one major exception being Ozzy’s return to the Alamo – the San Antonio, Texas, landmark which he was accused of urinating on in 1982, leading to him being banned from the city. The ban was lifted in 1992. But regardless, when the media got word that the singer was going to check it out, a crowd of what Jack estimates to be around 1,000 people swarmed the entrance, freaking out Ozzy who was already nervous to return.
“I warned the producers,” he says, stressing his speech with his trademark hilarious wry inflection. “I said, ‘You go to the Alamo, everything’s going to happen.’ And it’s a fucking riot when we get there.”
Throughout the episode, Ozzy becomes more and more tense leading up to the visit. In one driving scene, he yells at Jack, who is behind the wheel, to stop checking his phone and then he puts headphones on and listens to Chicago. (“He’s been on, like, a heavy Chicago kick,” Jack says.) Despite the singer’s racked nerves, Jack says his father thought going back to the Alamo would be funny.
“When it came out in the press and the news story blew up, he was like, ‘Ah, fuck this,'” the younger Osbourne says. “Thirty years ago, people legitimately wanted to kill my dad. So when he saw all those people, he was really freaked out like they were going to beat the shit out of him.”
“The crowd started going nuts,” Ozzy says. “It was scary.”
“I’m like, ‘No. People like you,'” Jack says.
After they made it through the crowd, the visit went off without incident. Once inside, they took a breather and Ozzy marveled at Davy Crockett artifacts and about how they made the interior into a museum and had “done it up a little bit.” The crew at the Alamo even helped them sneak out the back.
To lighten things up while in Texas, the Osbournes also visited NASA, where they tried driving a moon rover (it got stuck), scouted out a mission control room (“On TV it looks huge, but it’s not very big at all,” Ozzy says) and donned astronaut suits.
“It’s not a very comfortable outfit at all, to say the least,” Ozzy says. “I don’t get the way them astronauts walk around wearing them. They got these underpants … They’re like big bloomers.”
“It’s kind of like a wetsuit,” Jack says. “And the thing you always see astronauts carrying around is a cooling unit; it makes it feel like cold water is circulating under the suit to keep you cool, but you’re not wet. The funny thing to me was that the overalls under the suit are made by Patagonia. Like, ‘Oh, yes. Patagonia is making space overalls. They must make, like, four of them a year.'”
“The astronaut suit was all right until I tried to take that fucking helmet off,” he says. “It almost took my head with it.”
Jack’s favorite places to visit were Cuba – a visit Ozzy called “mind-blowing” in an interview with Rolling Stone earlier this year – and South Dakota. The former locale astounded the younger Osbourne with its food and Cold War-era architecture and cars, while the latter surprised him by being “very hipster-y,” he says, “like Portland, Oregon, 10 years ago.” He also liked Rapid City, South Dakota, because of its proximity to the Badlands, Mount Rushmore, Little Bighorn and missile silos.
Ozzy liked South Dakota, Jack says, because of the history of gold mining. “We went panning for gold one day,” he says, “and the rest of the time we were filming he was saying, ‘I want to go panning for gold again.'”
The singer, however, fondly remembers visiting the dinosaur museum in South Dakota, though the scenes were ultimately cut from the series. “Have you ever seen a full fossil of a T. rex?” he asks. “They were big, bad fucking things. … When you see them in the Spielberg movies, Jurassic Park, that’s one thing but up close they’re fucking huge. They were killing machines.” Asked if he got to touch the fossils, Ozzy perfectly deadpans, “Touching my dick … that’s a fossil.”
Although the show is over-the-top funny, Jack strived to make World Detour as earnest as possible. He wanted it to be unpredictable. “When you start scripting quote-unquote ‘reality TV,’ viewers tune out,” he says. “They say, ‘Yeah, that’s bullshit.'”
One thing that Jack is proud to say is real is the genuine affection you can see between father and son onscreen, as they razz each other and are wowed by the same historical facts. “It’s kind of awesome to be 30 years old and spending, like, 10 weeks traveling with your dad,” Jack says. “By the time you’re 30 and married, this type of thing usually doesn’t happen. So it was a pretty awesome opportunity.”
“He’s a very fair-minded guy,” Ozzy says of his son. “He’s a great father to his kids and a great husband to his wife.
“Doing this show has just been a laugh.”