I'd never seen "Gene Simmons' Family Jewels" before sitting down to watch this third season, and I have to say that my expectations of the A & E show were low. I expected another "Osbournes" and really, can you blame me? What I got was a very pleasant surprise, and such an improvement upon MTV's reality series.
The series stars the Simmons family: former rocker Gene, his wife (er, I mean, girlfriend, as Gene doesn't believe in marriage) Shannon Tweed and kids Nick and Sophie. Gene is darkly funny (there's a deadpan humor that's frequently hysterical), picky, kind of irritable, more than a little arrogant (the behind-the-scenes conversations between Donald Trump and Gene on the set of "Celebrity Apprentice" are an entertaining battle of ego and hair) and very smart.
This is not a rock star who relies on others to do his business (although he does have people he works with), this is a rock star who is always thinking business and always coming up with his own ideas, as crazy as some of them may be. Plus, he's done a remarkable job keeping Kiss relevant and in the public eye, and has unleashed a wave of Kiss-related products without the audience calling it overdone.
The reason that Gene Simmons remains an incredibly successful individual is readily apparent here. However, Simmons sometimes gives the show a slight "Curb Your Enthusiasm" feel, as while he's incredibly successful, he's awkward at best when getting himself out of a situation and despite his business skills, dealing with average people does not always appear to come easy to Gene. One example is an episode where Gene's car breaks down in the middle of the desert and gets picked up by fans and another where Gene gets busted while doing research for an "unusual" book idea.
Equally awkward is an episode where Gene buys Shannon a house, only to find that the house was rented to another family for a vacation - and they arrive just as Gene is trying to prepare for a weekend. Shannon and aunt Tracy get their own awkward situation when they are invited to the birthday of an old classmate...who they realize that they completely don't remember.
While the show seems staged (sometimes slightly, sometimes quite obviously), it works well enough thanks to amusing storylines and the fact that the family members are all characters - the kids even provide a nice counterpoint, taking their parents down a notch (in the nicest way possible) whenever they can. In terms of staged, few episodes seem as phony as "Homesick", where Gene buys Shannon a house in her home of Canada, only to have the family who rented the house for the weekend arrive - and not want to leave. While possibly not fake, the season finale ("Gene Down Under") shows Gene's business skill in a bizarre situation: he finds out that he has gone from a co-investor to sole owner of an Australian soccer team, despite knowing nothing about the sport.
While it's not without a few issues - do we really need 4 "best of"/clip show episodes in a season? - the third season of the series still proves to be one of the more entertaining "reality" (although how real it is is questionable) shows on cable.
• "Gene's Best Friend"
• "Liar, Liar Tongue on Fire"
• "The Brutal Truth (Double Episode)"
• "Before the Flood"
• "Knock, Knock Who's There?"
• "Swinging Gene"
• "Something's Fishy"
• "Nail Me"
• "Shannon B. DeMille"
• "Lil' Gene"
• "Ladies of the Night"
• "Sophie Couture"
• "Viewer Mail"
• "Mommy Makeover"
• "Gene the Apprentice"
• "Gene's Ego Trip"
• "Shannon to the Rescue"
• "Honeymoon at Last"
• "Power Outage"
• "Nick After Dark"
• "South of the Border" (Double Episode)
• "Happy Birthday...To Whom?"
• "Raw & Uncut"
• "Fan Favorites"
• "Gene Down Under"
VIDEO: "The Gene Simmons Family Jewels" episodes are presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. Image quality is generally excellent, with good sharpness and detail throughout the episodes. Some minor shimmering was spotted on a couple of occasion, but the picture was otherwise clean and clear. Colors remained bold and bright, with no smearing.
SOUND: Crisp, clear stereo soundtrack.
EXTRAS: "Family Time", "The Tweed Sisters" and "More Gene" are made to sound like featurettes, but are really groupings of random deleted scenes that run about an hour. There's some amusing clips here - Gene ordering drive-thru food for himself and the dog, Shannon horrifying Nick - but stretches of this footage isn't too interesting and was rightly left deleted.
Final Thoughts: While it's not without a few issues - do we really need 4 "best of"/clip show episodes in a season? - the third season of the series still proves to be one of the more entertaining "reality" (although how real it is is questionable) shows on cable. The DVD set provides very good video quality, fine audio quality and a few nice extras. Recommended.