KISS fans will likely feel like they’re in heaven with this quasi-intimate look at the long-tongued demon of rock. All others might be tempted to stay away, and yet, that might be a mistake. Let me first admit that I’m no fan of reality television or KISS. With that said, you might be expecting me to trash this particular program. Wrong! Honestly, as an outsider I have the unique ability to judge the show without all of the trappings of the band’s fame and history.
I’m not sure if it’s a case of morbid curiosity, but I ended up somewhat liking the show. At about 21 minutes an episode, it’s just the right length. Even if I did find this stuff entertaining, there was only so much of Gene’s family I could take in one sitting. The premise is simple and has been done to death by now. Cameras follow some famous person or family in the hopes of providing compelling drama for millions of viewers. OK, so that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but so is the idea that we’re going to get an intimate inside look at these folks while the cameras are rolling. It’s a lot like wrestling. If you don’t buy into that what you’re seeing is actually real, you can get a few laughs out of the whole thing. I will also admit this show destroyed a lot of the Gene Simmons mystique for me. Let’s face it. Can you ever watch the stage persona in the same light again after watching Gene scoop kitty litter or wash his dog by throwing him in the pool? Let’s not even talk about an attempt to get semen from a bull. Still, Gene turns out to be an interesting character very much removed from the one we’re so used to seeing. While Gene dominates the show, there is plenty of time given to wife Shannon Tweed, from Playboy and soft-porn films.
The kids are a bit of a hoot at times and appear remarkably at ease in front of the cameras. The family is certainly an untraditional one. The couple has been together for 23 years without ever getting married. We are beaten over the head with Gene’s dislike for the institution and Shannon’s desire for that gold ring on her finger. Gene’s certainly a proud father who will lend his kids his advice and help (whether they want it or not). Whatever else this show is about, it’s all Gene. I am a bit confused at the remarkably obvious way KISS is so prominent, yet its members are almost never mentioned. Even a reunion with the band fails to include participation from the other members. Only Paul Stanley is even thanked in the credits by name. Yes, the band is thanked, but it’s hardly the same thing. Not being a fan, I may simply be out of the loop enough to know what their relationships are. To an outsider they appear quite cold indeed.
Each episode of Gene Simmons: Family Jewels is presented in its original broadcast aspect ratio of 1.78:1 but it is not anamorphic. With that kind of a program you have to expect jittery camera work and imperfections in focus and lighting. Again, this is a lot of handheld stuff, so don’t expect picture stability all the time. Of course, the couch interviews are stable standard-looking production. Black levels and contrast are pretty much average. Overall I’m sure the DVD looks as good as or better than the original cable broadcast.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 track is an average affair. KISS fans will not like the quality of the musical presentation. I’m sure you’ll be looking for a ton more kick out of your subs during the theme. Sorry, but there’s nothing dynamic to brag about here. On the other hand, you won’t find anything terribly wrong here either. Most of the time you can hear the dialog. Other times subtitles fill in what is difficult to understand. Reality television is not MTV documentary.
You have to give Gene Simmons credit. He knows how to turn a buck. KISS has found its images on everything from NASCAR racers to toilet seats. He has an uncanny nose for business. Unlike many rockers from his day, he has managed to build on his earnings and lives quite comfortably. At times the show flaunts his excess, and it plays a bit uncomfortably. I’m sure some will be offended watching Shannon’s shopping spree top out at about $70,000 for clothes and jewelry in one afternoon. The trend of family reality shows is already getting old, but I think this will stand out as a relatively nice entry in a rather stale trend. He’s an aged rocker who brags about having sex with 4600 women, she’s a playboy model who’s done a ton of soft porn. They have two relatively normal kids. “If that doesn’t sound like a nuthouse, I don’t know what does.”