|Gene Simmons - Family Jewels: Season One (2006)
Starring: Gene Simmons, Shannon Tweed, Nick Simmons, Sophie Simmons, Tracy Tweed
First, let’s get the description of this behemoth out of the way. This is indeed the “Signature Series Collectors Edition” of the first season of “Gene Simmons – Family Jewels.” That essentially means that the typical box set has been turned into typical overkill. The set comes “lavishly” packaged in a big ol’ plastic display box that is too large for any shelving system and falls apart easily. Fine. That thing is ridiculous anyway. Open it up and there is the actual product: a facsimile of a family album featuring four discs inside. Two discs contain the show’s 13 episodes including outtakes, bloopers and the like; another disc has the full-length episode of “Biography” spotlighting Gene Simmons; and the last disc features two tracks from the upcoming Gene Simmons box set. We come to the point where the warning statement, “Only if you’re a hardcore Gene Simmons or KISS fan will you want this,” comes into play.
Yes, the whole package is larger than life, just like Gene Simmons portrays himself in this “reality” show (reality of course meaning “real within the defined parameters of the show’s writers staging many of the scenes”), and one would assume, in real life as well. Criticizing Gene is pointless. He knows he’s full of himself. He knows he made his own money, on his own terms, and became a self-made billionaire -- and he makes sure everyone watching the show knows this, ad nauseam. He loves money more than anything, and the more things he can put his name or face on, the better. He copyrighted and owns a logo of a bag of money with a dollar sign on it. What he doesn’t understand of family life (which seems to be a shitload), he makes better by using money. He lets his common-law wife go on extravagant shopping sprees; gets out of things he doesn’t like by handing his kids wads of cash; and hands out even more cash to workers and random people he calls on the fly to either make things go his way, or just make them go away.
Since this is about Gene’s family, let’s go ahead and compare and contrast “Family Jewels” to the show that started all this madness, “The Osbournes.” Easy enough. Ozzy was a doddering incoherent clown. Gene is an egotistical goofball who likes to hear himself talk. Ozzy’s kids were spoiled rich kids who wound up getting into the same kind of chemical dependency like dear old Dad. Gene’s kids are the best thing about his show, being well grounded, intelligent and, from what we are shown here at least, not all that swept up in the whole celebrity thing. Son Nick is always exposing his dad for what he actually is, and daughter Sophie genuinely cares about her parents’ relationship. Ozzy’s wife Sharon pretty much controlled Ozzy. Gene’s wife Shannon is controlled by Gene’s credit card.
Gene boasts in the first episode how he and Shannon Tweed have been “happily unmarried” for 20-plus years. Simmons is genuinely afraid of getting hitched, even though Shannon would love nothing more. Still, she’s stuck it out with Simmons for this long and produced two kids with him, and wants a third. Although Tweed may love Simmons dearly, it’s oddly refreshing to see someone acting superficially enough to stick with someone else for so long, because of the financial situation. Given that Simmons always boasts about how he never drinks or does drugs, Tweed would never have to worry about having an Ozzy situation on her hands. On the other hand, Ozzy really loves being married to Sharon and is devoted to her. Gene, on the other hand, loves boobs and babes.
So in episode after episode we get to see Gene spend money on business opportunities, such as a cattle ranch, Indy racing, a bikini car wash and “Gene Simmons S’exercise.” During this last one, daughter Sophie has been assigned to spend a day with a parent at their workplace and then write a paper on it. She comes along and sees various women audition for the ensuing video and precuts created around the “S’exercise” idea. Sophie concludes that many of them are sluts and are trying too hard to be sexy. Gene admits that he’s no match for his daughter and the two walk off into the sunset.
The best episode here is one in which Gene meets his biggest fan ever through a Sirius radio contest. Simmons assumes the fan is going to be some hot young chick. Instead, he gets stuck with a middle-aged man who’s more than obsessed. He’s one of those guys who knows everything about his idol, and even has a few new ideas himself. He tortures Gene by taking him mini-golfing, go-karting and riding on bumper boats. They stop off at some fast food joint where the fan then tells Gene he wants to work with him, has a book idea, etc. Simmons replies that he only works with people who have already made it and are a sure thing, and can therefore make him more money. Still, getting to see Simmons squirm with this guy all day (and night after Shannon invites him in for dinner) is the highlight of the season.
Other than that, it’s the same old, same old. Nick has a band, and he wants to succeed without dad’s help. Shannon and sister Tracy go shopping for stupid crap over and over again. Sophie gets upset with Gene for not being there enough. Gene and Shannon go to a fitness resort where Gene pays a staff member a few hundred bucks to get him some fast food and a TV for his room. Shannon gets Sophie a horse, which ends up crapping all over the lawn, leading Gene to pay someone $1,000 out of his pocket to take the horse to some stable in Malibu. Gene spends money. Gene makes more money then we’ll ever see. Shannon and Tracy spend money. Money, money, money.It gets boring as hell really fast because it feels like you’re watching the same episode 13 times in a row. The staging of many of the scenes is obvious and adds nothing to an already nothing show. Watching Simmons brag about what he’s made and tossing around dollars like some aging hotshot is hardly captivating television. Still, hardcore fans are truly going to dig this stuff, and the show was undoubtedly created for them. If you’re not the slightest bit interested in Simmons or KISS, you probably won’t want to watch, even if you’re a reality TV junkie. Actually, the show could have been much better had we seen any semblance of the other members of KISS, but this never happens. It’s all about Simmons and his goofy business schemes. That said, the episode of “Biography” on the third disc is better than the show itself, and keeps this package from being a complete washout. The fourth disc with two songs is filler. Simmons could never sing. Hearing him try to scream the terrible theme song for his show is more than enough.