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The Osbournes, of course, is a hit on cable, with its more relaxed standards and smaller audiences. Still, MTV has reshaped mainstream TV before. The Real World wouldn't have made it on CBS, but it spawned Survivor. NBC may not have aired Jackass, but it eventually gave us Fear Factor. "I'm sure the networks will find a lame, copycat way to do it wrong," says producer Judd Apatow (Undeclared). "Most television is constructed by committee. And a show like this doesn't have a committee, so it can't be watered down." The networks are already considering new twists on reality series. ABC is positioning The Hamptons, a two-part documentary by Barbara Kopple about the Long Island resort towns, to air in June, as "the first reality mini-series." Whether The Osbournes affects how sitcoms tell funny stories is another matter. Perhaps you can't make up something that original. But it would be nice to see somebody try.
--With reporting by Leslie Berestein/Los Angeles and Benjamin Nugent/New York