Judge Ryan Keefer is startled that there is a KISS coffin, but even more startled that there's not a Gene Simmons letter sealer! Wait for it...there you go.
Our reviews of Gene Simmons Family Jewels: The Best Of Seasons 1 And 2 (published April 9th, 2008), Gene Simmons Family Jewels: The Complete Season 2 (published March 3rd, 2008), Gene Simmons Family Jewels: The Complete Season 3 (published December 8th, 2008), Gene Simmons Family Jewels: The Complete Season 4 (published January 29th, 2011), and Gene Simmons Family Jewels: The Complete Season 5 (published January 29th, 2011) are also available.
Kiss your expectations goodbye.
Granted, there's not a lot of joy in watching a reality show of the everyman. Who would watch a show called "Joe Watkins, overnight grocery store stocker?" So that's why we see so many shows about the normal lives of famous people. Gene Simmons' reality show is another of many arrivals to the reality show atmosphere for celebrities. Shows of similar ilk have been hilarious (The Osbournes), the bland (Newlyweds), and the painful (anything that has Flavor Flav in it). Where does Gene Simmons Family Jewels fall in?
Facts of the Case
Thirteen episodes designed to baffle the mind and generally please any fan of the bass player from the band named KISS. Those episodes (which appear to be out of the original airing order) are:
• "Happily Unmarried"
I've never been that big of a fan of KISS. They are in a trio of much adored bands (Pink Floyd and the Grateful Dead are the others) that everyone else in the world likes except me. And it's not like I don't hate them. KISS doesn't really rub me wrong, but they've been sticking around in the music scene for over three decades. They abandoned their makeup in the '80s, and their fame and success dropped a bit, and the songs seemed a little too corny (think Sammy Hagar in Van Halen corny). But in the late '90s, they came back to their roots, threw on their makeup, boots and fake blood and gave the fans what they wanted, which was the hits.
However, Simmons wasn't the type of performer who immersed himself in mind-altering chemicals. He had his share of excess sure, and that excess was found in groupies. He flicked that one or two yard tongue around in the air for a reason, and his sexual conquests (rumored to be in the thousands) were caught on Polaroid in some manner or fashion. But one day sometime in the '80s, he met Shannon Tweed, Playmate of the Year and performer in such movie gems like Scorned and Indecent Behavior. Simmons and Tweed developed a relationship that stretched from hours into days, weeks and months, and one day they managed to have a child, a son named Nicholas. Several years later, a daughter named Sophie followed. And today, Nicholas, a.k.a. Nick is a 17-year-old who is 6 feet 7 inches tall and wants to follow in his dad's footsteps (shocker), and Sophie is a 13-year-old with normal 13-year-old likes, mainly boys. Tweed is the glue of the family (if you can call it that, Simmons has not popped the question because of his opposition to marriage as an institution), and Simmons' urges of the flesh have been replaced by urges to get the KISS logo on as many things possible, from credit cards to action figures to race cars. Simply put, Gene Simmons is a bit of a merchandiser and networker, and this isn't made more plain than during the "Gene's Addiction" episode, where Simmons frequently leaves his family for blocks of time to make phone calls to the mayor of a ski resort and to also work with a local resort to develop a design for a KISS/Gene Simmons snowboard. Yes, you read that right.
However for a reality show, it doesn't appear that's there a lot of reality in it. In my mind, the gold standard of reality shows involving rock musicians is The Osbournes, in large part because it showed a lot of the everyday stuff and did it well, there was no need to create something to watch. And if there was something that happened, like the sudden rise in popularity of Kelly as a musician, it was done more in stride than anything else. In Family Jewels, Gene goes to a western ranch and wears a cowboy hat, hilarious! Aspiring driver Nick is pitted into a battle of vehicular competency with Gene (who apparently didn't start driving until the mid '80s) to see who the better driver is. Stop it, my sides! Put it this way, when it comes to the family dynamic, Ozzy, Sharon, Jack and Kelly all yell at each other. A chunk of the time during Family Jewels is spent communicating by phone intercom. Ozzy was shown taking the trash out or cooking lunch or dinner. If it's a reality show, don't mug for your own cameras (I'm looking at Nick on that one), don't worry about creating any action, and take it as it comes. And after a baker's dozen episode run, I feel comfortable in saying Tweed's pregnancy lobbying seems to be more a ploy to watch the show than actual desires to expand the family.
Split over two discs, the first disc includes a rough cut of a pilot that set things in motion, with the kids enjoying themselves while Gene takes his time getting down to breakfast in his footy pajamas, which for me is the best part of the show. The second disc includes interview footage of various family combinations, which might be more entertaining than some of the episodes of the show. Following that is a tour of Gene's merchandising room which, like it or not, is pretty damn impressive, but I don't think we needed 15 minutes to see the same things several times. Next up are Gene's thoughts of music past, present and future, followed by some more Gene plugging, and Gene flubbing some of the intros to his episodes.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
The capitalist in me keeps me in check when it comes to Simmons' shameless merchandising, God bless him and his efforts. Considering in one show when Tweed and her sister almost blow $20,000 in one sitting, I can understand doing all the merchandising, because it helps cut down on the touring. Ozzy's on his sixth or seventh farewell tour for that same reason.
The many legions of the KISS army can breathe a sign of relief knowing what Gene Simmons does in his spare time, and it's a weekly fix for them at that. Unfortunately, what Simmons does in his spare time simply borders on predictable goofy material to fill a show. It's like Hogan Knows Best minus the steroids and not as much plastic surgery. Don't laugh, but at least you can tell the difference between mother and daughter on Family Jewels.
If you wanted the best, it's certainly not on this set of two discs. Sorry KISS army, the court finds Gene Simmons guilty of exploitation without entertainment.
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Scales of Justice
• Pilot Episode Rough Cut
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