A&E Home Video
Cast: Gene simmons, Shannon Tweed, Nick Tweed-simmons, Sophie Tweed-Simmons
Extras: Rough Cut Pilot, Featurettes
I had no idea this show actually existed until I got the press release from A&E Home Entertainment announcing its DVD release. Not much of a TV viewer I am, I guess. When I read about it, I wanted to give it a quick look, though. It was a guilty pleasure and I really just wanted to get a brief glimpse at Gene Simmons behind the mask. What happened? Well, I couldn't put it down. I had to view it episode for episode. Afterwards I tried to figure out what the appeal was and I couldn't really put my finger on it. It was a weird love-hate experience.
Gene Simmons, as you certainly all know, is the bassist and key behind the rock phenomenon "KISS" that has scared parents for 30-some years. Over the years, Gene has built a media empire and is virtually selling anything that allows him to put the band's name or faces on. From T-Shirts, cereal and general merchandise he even went as far as creating KISS condoms and the KISS casket. Apart from that he has a publishing empire that publishes records and books and many countless other things many of us have probably never even heard of. He is a success story in the true American Dream tradition.
"Family Jewels" is a "reality" show that takes us into Gene's home – much like "The Osbournes" did. However while there is a bit more sanity in Gene's house you will still experience some weirdness and awkwardness that may – or may not – change your view on Gene and his spouse Shannon Tweed.
The word "reality" is really stretching it also, because there is nothing real about this show. From the first episode you can tell that everything is clearly staged to a large degree. Episodes cover topics and are not there to capture general events happening around the house. Everything is stylized in a sense and as such Gene's children Sophie and Nick never have to go to school, it seems. No one's ever having lunch or dinner here, really, and everything that happens, happens for a purpose.
With all that in mind, "Family Jewels" is essentially about Gene's obsessions. His obsession with sex, his obsession with not being married, his obsession with himself, his obsession with money, his obsession with work, and so forth. At least he is fairly honest with all that – honest as in "publicity" honest, which means it may not really, really be what he believes in but it is what his image dictates. Marriage is a perfect example for that and I think the show makes a good point about that in one of the season's last episodes in which Shannon raises the issue that Gene's unwillingness to get married may have more to do with the fact that his outspokenness on the subject for decades has created so much peer pressure that now he can't really revert back on it. I think it is true and Gene knows that and to a degree even admits to it. Let's face it, not a lot would change if Gene and Shannon got married. They are married already, in a sense, and Shannon has the reigns around the house firmly in her hands.
Speaking of Shannon, it is interesting to see her. If Gene is the Demon, Shannon is the Dragon. She can be really nice and witty at times, but whoa can she spit fire. Frankly, I'm not sure if I like her or not. She has certain streaks in her that are downright mean – apart from her obsessive need to spend money on countless $20,000 shopping sprees. To say it in a polite way, Shannon has no people skills whatsoever. The way she hurls insults at people just because she's rich is an outage, really, and her sister Tracy, whose mental development seems to have stopped at 18, doesn't help much either. But enough of the nitpicky details.
Each of the episodes of "Family Jewels" covers a certain topic and as such we have one episode in which Gene is arranging a club concert for Nick's band without their knowing it. It is all about Gene trying to take control of Nick's career – much to Nick's dismay.
Then there's an episode in which Gene meet his biggest fan, a winner from a radio contest and is forced to spend a whole day with him while Shannon cleans out his closet in the show's typical completely-over-the-top way. Or at least I think it's over the top because I've never burned old clothes in my backyard. Most sensible people either throw them away or donate them to charities – not so however when you're so self-absorbed that you don't know real life anymore.
Then there's the episode that's all about being happily un-married in which it becomes clear that Shannon is not at all happy about being un-married. One episode deals with plastic surgery, another one with Shannon's surprise for Gene in which she takes him to a health farm. The Mammoth ski trip episode is also fun, as is the Gene Simmons Bikini Car Wash" episode and, of course, the Bull milking episode.
As I mentioned in the opening, I was strangely mesmerized by the show. I disagree with a lot of what I see there and I has changed my view on Gene Simmons quite bit. It is nice to see he is a regular guy after all, who has to make amends to please his family, who needs to get among real people more among other things. However, it also shows very clearly that the success and money has spoiled him rotten because he's pampered all ay long and because he knows that by throwing around money he can get anything he wants. That side of Gene is very sad to see because I'm sure he doesn't' even know where his own mailbox is in front of the house. The simple everyday things we all do, Gene doesn't, and he doesn't realize that he's missing out on an important part of live as a result. But hey, it's not my life, so why should I care? I'm just sitting there, enjoying the antics and getting a good laugh at the over-inflated egos while feeling bad for his kids.
A&E Home Entertainment has prepared a nice little package containing the entire first season of the show here spread over two discs. A rough cut of the pilot episode is also included on the disc as well as a selection of featurettes offering additional insights into the show, the characters and Gene's achievements. The "Unseen Couch Interviews" are full of more brilliant little quips that will make you smile and laugh as the rest of the family is trying to take it out on Gene.
"Inside The Demon's Lair" is a multi-part tour through Gene's office which is a gigantic collection of KISS memorabilia. Gene is showing off some of the items on display there and explains their significance as well. In other segments ,other family members take viewers through the office and tell their stories about it.
"Gene's History Of Rock'n Roll" is a fun home movie in which Nick interviews Gene about the origins of Rock'n Roll and his love for the music.
"The Lost songs" touches upon some of the music from the show itself, such as the song Sophie is recording, the music of Nick's band, and some other random songs that are part of the life of Gene Simmons.
Next up are bloopers, the "Behind The Make-Up" featurette and "Gene Simmons 24/7" which follows Gene to some of his public appearances.
"Gene Simmons: Family Jewels" is a fun experience that will appeal to all KISS fans ,evidently, and may also interest some people who may just be curious about the man who turned is his life into such a success story. The Gene haters will also find plenty of entertainment value in this watching Gene not being the boss or being mocked by his family. Overall, I found this DVD to be a lot of fun and it made me laugh quite a bit.