Reality Bites

Reality Bites: Gene Simmons Family Jewels

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

Okay, I just got the title of this show. See, it's about Kiss bassist Gene Simmons, and his family, only see Simmons was known as something of a "ladies man" back in the day so adding "jewels" makes it into a double entendre because "family jewels" means genitals. How juvenile.

But then, as Simmons himself has leaked in the past, he's more performer than musician. This is bang on, and perhaps explains his pathological need to expose himself even as he should be enjoying the relative rectitude of his winter years. Simmons, like fellow sexagenarian rocker Steven Tyler, can't help but thrust his persona on us. Be it on American Idol, a show bulging with product endorsements and commercials (Tyler), or in a reality program confirming what a limp noodle he's become, even if he does have a lot balls in the air (Simmons).

Simmons has only been married to former Playmate/softcore VHS star Shannon Tweed since 2011, but they've been "together" since 1984. I'm assuming this is the more liberal definition of the term, since Simmons has by his own admission slept with more than 4,600 women, and if we were to assume monogamy for the last 28 years (which we already know is untrue) and a sexual awakening at - say - 15, that would mean Simmons "knew" 230 women a year until meeting Tweed. Even for a member of KISS, I'm calling bullshit. There's not enough vitamin E in the world.

Family Jewels is typical of the reality genre's "behind the scenes" approach, in that it confirms time and time again what a terrible idea it is to get to know famous people outside of their chosen arena (I don't count the Kardashians or the Real Housewives or the like, because reality television is their chosen arena). Worse yet is seeing the erstwhile God of Thunder doddering about like the befuddled grandfather he likely is (I'm just playing the odds). I understand nobody in the charted universe markets himself like Simmons, but who the hell wants to watch Zeide Weitz spend half the afternoon on a couch debating the finer points of adoption? Where the hell were the cameras during that KISS/Ozzy Osborne tour in '77? That's the footage I want to see.

And yeah, apparently Tweed is keen to adopt, for some reason. She talks it over with 19-year old daughter Sophie, who mentions in passing the last time dad "got in trouble" was when Tweed was preoccupied with her and brother Nick. "Trouble" possibly referring to that aforementioned sex tape, though who can narrow it down?

Seriously, how awesome must it be to be Gene Simmons' daughter? To be fair, Sophie seems like a reasonably well-adjusted kid, which probably comes from the layers of insulation you build up over hearing your old man sing "Christine Sixteen" and stumbling upon those Polaroids Simmons took of every woman he ever banged.

Did I mention Simmons is 62? There's something to be said, I suppose, for wanting to honor your wife's wishes, but in the slim likelihood the Demon survives to see the kid's high school graduation, he'll be over 80 when it happens. This sort of insensitivity is hardly unique to Simmons, but how many 70 year-old can throw a football or kick a soccer ball around with a kid? I'm assuming the child would have an armada of nannies and au pairs to actually, you know, *raise* him/her, what is he hoping to accomplish, aside from adding another cast member to his joke of a TV show?

We get into some murky questions of the female reproductive system when Shannon's sister Tracy (Night Eyes 3) pops up to remind everyone she still has a leftover frozen embryo from her last in vitro treatment - which to me just conjures images of a fetus in one of those Ziploc freezer bags. She therefore decides she wants to get implanted to coincide with Shannon's adoption, which is sweet in an unsettlingly V.C. Andrews kind of way. She then offers to give the embryo to Shannon, though I'm unclear as to whether she plans to carry it to term herself or have it implanted in her sister. I know naught of womanly matters, but is implantation at that age really a good idea? Lady, you were the bomb in Hot Dog...The Movie, but you're 55 years old.

Shannon certainly seems genuinely enthusiastic about the prospect, but she already has two grown-ass children. I'll chalk it up to boredom, or possibly the way the passage of time erases unpleasant memories, because I can't imagine wanting to relive those halcyon days of thrice nightly feedings and projectile defecating. Fortunately (or not, depending on your perspective) Tracy changes her mind. And to soothe Shannon's sorrow (and to distract her from any more adoption talk), Gene offers to take her on their long-delayed honeymoon.

The show ends with the couple getting their vaccinations to go to Africa, and the God of Thunder proves his mighty divinity by wincing like a toddler at every shot.

Again, I don't know how an egomaniac like Simmons waited this long to star in his own TV show; the guy's office is wall-to-wall KISS memorabilia and vanity crap. His failure to capitalize at a more opportune time is almost as big an embarrassment as that hair. Shave your head once and for all or wear the stage wig full-time dude but do something about that horrific rug, dude. You make Bill Shatner look like Omar Sharif.

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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