Film and TV

Reality Bites: 4th And Loud

There are a million reality shows on the naked television. We're going to watch them all, one at a time.

I've been asked by unrelated people on at least three unconnected occasions when I was planning on covering 4th and Loud for the continuing exercise in converting what remains of my gray matter into the delicious gruel I call "Reality Bites." I've never been able to give a good answer.

It's kind of weird, because due to poor time-management skills inherited from just about every one of my ancestors, I often find myself on a Monday or Tuesday without anything recorded to write about, necessitating a frantic perusal of free On Demand titles in the hopes of finding something I can sit through without falling asleep. So I really can't blame anything but conscious avoidance. In spite of months of pre-premiere promotion and continuing advertisements on AMC, it never crossed my mind to write about that show where Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley bought an arena football team.

This is also why I went through a run of truTV selections for a while. Because nobody but meth addicts and tow truck fetishists watches truTV voluntarily.

On the other hand, please don't take this as an indication that my KISS bona fides are somehow lacking:

First Album Purchased With My Own Money: KISS Destroyer
Third Grade Halloween Costume: Ace Frehley
KISS Army Military Record: Enlisted from 1977 until...well, I'm not sure. AWOL before Lick it Up, at any rate.

I've also seen them in concert a handful of times, rationalizing the further fattening of Simmons's bank account as justified by a return to days of youthful enthusiasm, or something.

Conversely, I know next to nothing about arena football except there's no punting, the field is as long as a hockey rink and beer is generally cheaper. By a weird coincidence, I went to Arena Bowl XIX in Las Vegas (I was attending a film festival), but all I can tell you is John Elway's team won and Bryan Adams played at halftime. Neither of these generated much enthusiasm for further investigation.

Simmons and Stanley reportedly decided to break into the Arena Football League (AFL) after being asked to play the Arena Bowl a few years back. One of the stipulations, apparently, was that the team be named "The Los Angeles KISS," because that brand didn't get as ubiquitous as it is without it getting slapped on everything imaginable. Stanley tells head coach Bob McMillen he wants the coach to bring to the AFL "what we've brought to rock and roll." Sounds like a tall order, but AFL caskets can't be too difficult to manufacture, can they?

In The Episode I Watched, the LA KISS are 3-12, but improbably -- due to the NHL-like rules of the Arena Football League -- are still in playoff contention. Director of Player Personnel Scott Bailee, Coach McMillen, GM Brett Bouchy and others open up, talking about injuries and the team's dwindling chances. Considering Simmons and Stanley all but promised fans a championship in their first season, it's pretty grim. Then again, this is Los Angeles; fans will be annoyed for about 30 minutes, then forget about it.

What you've got here is basically a less professional Hard Knocks, with Simmons and Stanley offering unintentional comic relief by playing the heavies. That still doesn't stop us from getting an extended commercial for KISS's latest tour when they stop in Los Angeles for a show.

The show's dramatic arc, such as it is, centers on whether or not LA can beat Portland in an away game. Dramatic orchestral flourishes and inspirational speeches, however, can't really take away from the fact this is *arena football,* which is basically bumper pool with helmets. What the show does accomplish is demonstrating, on a smaller level, how violent the sport is: Six KISS players end up injured in the gane, which is...a bit much.

They eventually lose, setting up the improbable playoff scenario: LA wins their last two games, Portland loses their last two. Simmons calls Bouchy to bitch, because Simmons is good at bitching.

There's also a side plot in which Bouchy's wife, Brandy -- who is coincidentally the dance instructor -- asks McMillen why the dancers are practicing more than the players. I wasn't aware the drill team participated in full-contact drills. What's worse (though not entirely unpredictable) is how she gets more airtime than the actual game. McMillen is understandably pissed, and loses his shit in front of team president Schuyler Hoversten and the whole goddamn team as a result. Schuyler, in turn, reads her the riot act, right in front of her husband and the whole goddamn team. Good times.

Finally, Bouchy drops the bomb on McMillen: lose to a shitty San Antonio squad and your job is IN JEOPARDY. It'd be more menacing to hear Bouchy rant about how frustrating the losing streak is, except he pronounces it "fustrating," which is just hilarious.

Holding sway over all is Gene Simmons. I can't rag on Stanley too much, because aside from the hilarious old-man rocker look he sports (think Eddie Money with more plastic surgery), the frontman seems like he perpetually needs someone to steer him in the direction of his next task. Simmons, on the other hand, is such a combination of venality and terrible hair ((seriously, William Shatner has better hair than Gene Simmons), it's impossible to take him seriously. As team owners go, he's somewhere between Shahid Khan and Donald Sterling on the Threatening Scale.

Simmons himself almost sounds tired of it all as well. In the end, you can almost hear the weariness creeping in around the end of his contractually mandated six minutes of footage.

4th and Loud features the usual reality-show drama queen bullshit, only accentuated by the fact it features big tough football dudes and two demiliches who have become as famous for constantly clawing their way into the spotlight as for their music.

KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar