A&E // 2007 // 506 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Kent Dixon (Retired) // March 3rd, 2008
A Rock God and a Playmate have given us an all-access backstage pass into their occasionally crazy, but remarkably normal, family life.
Love 'em or hate 'em, KISS have secured their place as one of the greatest rock spectacles of all time. And proving their critics wrong, they ditched their signature make-up in 1983, showing there was more to them than their theatrical on-stage personas. It's almost impossible to think of KISS without some iconic images jumping into your mind: their make-up, their outlandish costumes, spitting blood, and Gene Simmons' disturbingly long tongue. But how does Gene Simmons' life fare as the subject of a reality show?
Join Gene, his long-time companion Shannon Tweed, and their children, Nick and Sophie, as they experience some remarkably middle-class situations that all show another side of Mr. Simmons.
All regular episodes and one bonus episode of Gene Simmons Family Jewels: The Complete Season 2 are included in this set, distributed over three discs as follows:
"Under the Knife"
"A Bun in the Oven?"
"Gene's Big Mouth"
"Nice Day for a Facelift"
"Coming Out Party"
"Uncle Gene Wants You"
"Master Gene Theater"
"All Grown Up"
"...And They're Off"
"Trapped in Paradise"
"Fact or Fiction?"
My earliest memory of KISS dates back to elementary school. A classmate was selling off the four KISS solo albums that were released in September 1978, and I snapped them up right away. What can I say? I was an impressionable 9-year-old, in the fifth grade, eager to be listening to what the cool kids were into. But let's just say that my mother was less than impressed, and I exchanged my purchase for a full refund the next day at school.
Despite being a fan of metal and mainstream rock growing up, I never really followed KISS or bought any of their albums. However, like other prominent music icons, it's hard not to take note of Gene Simmons whenever he appears in the news, so I heard about Gene Simmons Family Jewels shortly before it aired in 2006.
As the front man for the band from the beginning, in many ways Gene Simmons is KISS. His overt sexuality and in-your-face personality transcend his stage persona and have pervaded his business dealings and much of his private life. Enter Gene Simmons Family Jewels. Gene Simmons. Rock legend? Sure. Imposing personality? Definitely. But doting father and hen-pecked common-law husband!?!??!
Unlike the MTV series The Osbournes, where we see rocker Ozzy Osbourne and his family as they essentially fight their way through daily life while enriching the viewing experience with bleeped expletives and often clear disdain for each other, Simmons and his tribe really seem to function as a family who love and respect each other. Sure, they don't stress about how they're going to pay for the next family vacation, but they still experience some of the growing pains of any family with teenagers.
One of the most impressive things about the show is that despite what you might expect from stereotypes of rock icons and former Playmates, Gene and Shannon really seem like nice people. Simmons is a smart and business-savvy man with great ideas, and despite how you may feel about his somewhat legendary sexual escapades, he seems to have escaped the '70s and '80s drug and alcohol dependency issues that plagued many of his peers and tanked their careers.
Although it's hard to believe many of the situations and story lines in Family Jewels aren't staged à la Survivor, Big Brother, and other network reality shows, the chemistry of the Simmons-Tweed family makes this a show worth watching. If you're already a fan of reality shows, you'll be taking everything you see and hear on Gene Simmons Family Jewels: The Complete Season 2 with a relatively large dose of sodium, but that doesn't mean there isn't a decent amount of entertainment to be had here. It seems nothing is sacred, as everything from facelifts to baby plans and even a lie detector test (to prove or disprove the stories about Gene's sexual exploits) are fodder for episodes.
This DVD release offers better-than-broadcast quality in both the video and audio presentation. The audio isn't fully immersive, and the picture does show grain at times, but overall, the set falls within the expectations you'd have for this type of show. On disc three, the bonus episode, "It Was a Very Good Year," shares favorite moments and deleted scenes, and "The Lost Couch Interviews" featurette delivers three short couch interview segments that weren't used elsewhere during the season.
A quick note to A&E: if the opportunity ever offers itself, episode commentary tracks with Simmons and Tweed would be a welcome addition to the extra features on future Family Jewels DVD releases.
Gene Simmons Family Jewels: The Complete Season 2 will arguably appeal to a relatively small demographic of Gene Simmons fans, Shannon Tweed fans, or folks who enjoy a voyeuristic trip on the Gene Simmons express. A&E has done a nice job on this release, and it's a set fans of the show will definitely want to pick up as they anxiously wait for the announced third season to debut.
In many ways, Family Jewels is reminiscent of The Ozzy and Harriet Show, where well-meaning dad bumbles through life while wife and children smile sympathetically. The formula worked in a '50s sit-com, but sometimes falls flat in a new millennium reality show. That said, Gene Simmons Family Jewels is the second-highest rated show on A&E, so they are clearly doing something right. Sure, some of the stories and situations are likely staged, but there are also genuine moments of love and care between Gene, Shannon, Nick, and Sophie that would be pretty hard to fake.
It's reality TV, but with Gene Simmons. You do the math. Sometimes it adds
up, and sometimes it doesn't. But love it or hate it, you may find you'll finish
the season liking Gene Simmons just a little bit more.
Review content copyright © 2008 Kent Dixon; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 506 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Bonus Episode: "It Was a Very Good Year"
* "The Lost Couch Interviews"
* Official Site
* Wikipedia: Gene Simmons