Despite its declining ratings, MTV renewed The Osbournes for a third season, which began production last month and is scheduled to debut in January 2004. But what would The Osbournes be without Ozzy?

MTV almost found out this week.

On Monday, December 8, according to the Associated Press, former rock star Ozzy Osbourne was driving an all-terrain vehicle around the family's Buckinghamshire estate when he didn't see a hole in the lawn. The ATV flipped, Ozzy fell off, and the ATV landed on top of him, causing extensive internal injuries ... and potentially his death, except for a quick-thinking Osbourne security guard.

According to Reuters, Ozzy's wife Sharon said that Ozzy "stopped breathing for a minute and a half and there was no pulse. But thank God the security guard was there to revive him. He resuscitated [Ozzy] and got him breathing and his pulse going again."

But Ozzy still wasn't out of the woods. He had eight broken ribs, a broken vertebra in his neck and a broken collarbone. In addition, he had blood in his lungs and a damaged blood vessel in his left arm. He was rushed to a nearby hospital for emergency surgery, fitted with a hard collar in an effort to prevent permanent paralysis and then placed on a ventilator.

In the midst of this, Ozzy's doctors issued a statement that he was "stable and comfortable" -- a statement so far removed from the reality facing the unconscious former lead singer of Black Sabbath that it might have fit comfortably in an episode of The Osbournes.

According to the British music publication New Musical Express, Ozzy's doctors began the "several day" process of weaning him off the ventilator on Wednesday, two days after his crash. On Thursday, according to his daughter Kelly, Ozzy finally woke up and gave his family the "thumbs-up" sign. However, since he is still on the ventilator, he was only able to mouth words.

Is there permanent damage? According to Sharon, the doctors won't be able to determine that until Ozzy has finally been removed from the ventilator and is able to talk.

The accident in his homeland seems to have given Ozzy's U.K. public image a major boost. In particular, his duet with Kelly on the old Black Sabbath song "Changes" has taken off on the music charts. According to British bookmakers William Hill, the odds on the song being #1 in the UK over Christmas have dropped from 50-1 to 16-1. (By contrast, the odds of the song even charting in the U.S. remain astronomical.)

The accident came not only in the midst of filming for The Osbournes but also in the middle of a U.K. publicity barrage by the Osbourne family. During the publicity storm, we learned that, according to gossip columnist Jeannette Walls, eldest daughter Aimee, who refused to participate in The Osbournes, blamed MTV for distorting her father's image: "The first time I saw it and the way they edited it to make my dad look like a clown, I wanted to cry. Now he is a laughingstock and known as a stuttering alcoholic. After all his years of hard work and touring, this is how he’s being remembered and appreciated.”

According to the Daily Mirror, younger sister (and laughingstock in her own right) Kelly was so angered by Aimee's attack on the show, the family's main claim to fame, that she spat out the following quote: "She sits and acts like she is so much better than us,. That's what really upsets me about her. Aimee will reap all the benefit and yet won't do any of the work. She will take the money, she will take the free clothes, she will take the free premiere tickets, she will take everything that comes along with what we do. But then she will sit there and slag me off, my brother off, my mum and my dad off to all her friends for days. And it makes me sick. Because if you think that what we do is so disgusting and you think that I'm so horrible and I'm so crap, then don't take the benefits from it."

Typical sibling rivalry among the overpublicized set.

To keep her kids from overshadowing her, Sharon pulled out another one of her juicy "might-be-true" anecdotes about the Osbournes love life, this time writing that she had a "one-night stand" with Ozzy's best friend, the late legendary hard rock guitarist Randy Rhodes: "Ozzy knows the one-time occurrence was loving, not lustful." Frankly, we think that's what all philanderers say.

And even Ozzy was receiving his share of publicity -- Major League Baseball's "This Year In Baseball" Awards named his rendition of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" during an August 17 Chicago Cubs game as the "Most Bizarre Moment" in baseball during 2003. A well-earned honor, we believe.

Not being satisfied with that, Ozzy also told the Daily Mirror that he was sexually molested by older boys when he was an 11-year-old in post-war Birmingham and that he was dyslexic and suffered from attention deficit disorder. In Ozzy's words on December 1, "I'm 55 on December 3. How I have survived is a miracle but sooner or later something will go wrong."

On December 8, it almost did. We wish Ozzy good luck on his recovery, because we'd hate to see serious tragedy befall the clown prince of reality TV.