Gene Simmons Family Jewels, like The Osbournes before it, is notable mainly for the fact that it proves that old rock stars live terribly boring lives and aren’t interesting even when the producers of their shows manufacture conflict. That’s the big lark with both shows: you’re only watching because you know Ozzy Osbourne ate a live bird’s head and Gene Simmons supposedly copulated with 4,600 women in the ‘70s, not because their current lives as moderately domesticated dads and businessmen make for riveting television.
The third season ofFamily Jewels, collected in a new DVD set with no notable special features (unless you like useless footage), picks up the exact themes presented in the past two seasons of the show (Gene is a fool, Gene loves money, his girlfriend Shannon Tweed and her sister like plastic surgery, the couple’s kids are smart and going to be famous), and rides them nearly into the ground thanks to an excessively long season (28 episodes). But considering Family Jewels is one of the most successful shows in A&E history (behind only Dog the Bounty Hunter), and the fact that the show’s been picked up for another season, the likelihood of anything changing is extremely unlikely.
As the opening paragraph up there proves, Family Jewels draws a lot of Osbournes comparisons. But the shows do have one crucial difference that makes Family Jewels marginally more entertaining: the kids. Jack and Kelly of The Osbournes seemed acutely aware that the show could make them into stars, so they fought, partied, ignored their parents, and generally acted stupid. They treated Ozzy like the rock god he was, but also to advantage of his drug-induced haze as a way to use him as a doormat.
Gene’s kids Nick and Sophie, however, aren’t impressed by their dad’s fame: after all, they see him wake up every morning with that stub of cotton candy he calls hair sticking every which way. They also seem to think Gene’s money lust (he owns, based on calculations from various episodes, roughly 398 different companies) is a joke, his need to keep one of every Kiss product ever made an illness, and his disdain for other people a laughable tic. In short, they think of their dad as their dad, not unstoppable rock god Gene Simmons.
Season three picks up with a few episode arc that is the season’s most interesting: at the end of season two, Gene is challenged to take a polygraph test by Adam Carolla on his radio show to see if he has really slept with as many women as he claims, and to see if he’s cheated on Tweed during their 25 years together, and in season three Gene obliges. The implications weigh heavily on both Tweed and Gene: if Gene has cheated on Tweed, she obviously has to leave him, but since they’re not married, what would that really mean for their relationship?
Gene knows that if he fails the test, Tweed will be upset, but if he passes, it hurts his reputation as a world-renowned ladies man. In the end, Gene passes the test on both counts (he almost beats the test when they ask whether or not he’s “slept” with 4,600 women, and he says no, but then co-host Danny Bonaduce asks have he had sex with 4,600 women, and he admits he has), and things go on as usual.
The rest of the season forms around two main conflicts: Nick is 18 now, and is heading off to college, and Tweed is still pining for the new baby she tried to get Gene to agree to in seasons one and two. The Nick storylines generally follow a stereotypical set-up of Gene and Tweed being overbearing, Nick telling them to back-off, and then realizing he still needs them.
But the Tweed marriage-kid plots move to an interesting route: Tweed and her sister Tracy find ways to make Gene spend time with Tracy’s twin sons (who are five), to see if he secretly likes kids and wants another one. It’s abundantly clear Gene wants nothing to do with any more ankle-biters, but he naturally cares for his nephews, making Tweed’s point pointless beyond proving Gene likes his family. But when the producers clearly manufacture a “oh my god Gene lost one of them at Sea World” story (without the other twin’s knowledge), things take a turn for the absurd and mundane.
Fact of the matter is that the only interesting conflict around Simmons’ life—his refusal to marry Tweed, even though he’s vowed to remain committed to her forever (read: married)—has been abandoned by the show in favor of creating conflict for Sophie (she has to walk in Fashion Week without any experience) and Nick (his car is towed and he dines and ditches). Granted, the conflict probably shouldn’t be an issue any more, any way—if Tweed really wants to get married, she can give Gene an ultimatum and dump him if he refuses—but the show has lost a lot of it’s interesting human conflict (unless you count Gene trying to expand his businesses by hosting parties with well-endowed women).
Unfortunately, the one moment that might strip away some of the celebrity pretension and pre-scripted conflict present in Family Jewels, a roast of Simmons for charity, is curiously not included on this DVD set, presumably so A&E can sell it as a separate DVD.
It’s not clear where Family Jewels will end up in its fourth season, but it’s not likely it will die an uninteresting death via lapsed contracts like other reality shows: Gene’s ego is big enough to keep the show on TV for the foreseeable future (even if it ends up having to move to syndication). Whether anyone watching will still be interested in whether or not Gene can get his dog kennel operation off the ground (I’m joking, but Kiss fans might pay for a Kiss Kennel) is debatable.