While I'd never seen "Family Jewels" until the third season, the series proved to be a mostly enjoyable surprise - it's as scripted as any sitcom (if not somehow moreso on some occasions - one would be forgiven for just considering it a sitcom), but Simmons himself is enough of a character to make for entertaining viewing, and he plays off of his family members well. 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 often very amusing), picky, kind of irritable, more than a little arrogant 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 (he describes walking into the NYSE: "It just felt right. A house of money.") 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 (somehow.) Somehow, he's managed to create five seasons worth of reality show material in an era where most shows don't seem to last more than a season or two.
Weirdly, could the Gene Simmons of today be considered a role model in some ways? While Simmons still may not be family-friendly, rarely is he not discussing the value of hard work on the series and believing in yourself (in terms of the latter, there's certainly the matter of ego, but he certainly believes in himself.) In this season's "Smarty Pants", Simmons pushes a college kid who isn't paying attention in class - and when the kid's homework goes over well with Gene's business partners, he's stunned to get a major reward from Gene.
The reasons that Gene Simmons remains an incredibly successful individual is readily apparent here, as Simmons keeps powering onward through 60, which the family tries to get him to celebrate in "The Demon Turns 60" this season. 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 - nor does technology, as Simmons continues to be baffled by computers again this season, starring at a webcam image of his family with confusion.
While I've said that the series has impressed me with its ability to create situations for these "characters" for five seasons, the fifth season falls a little flat at times, such as "Don't Mess With the Simmons", where Nick is forced to hang out with a friend of Gene's business associate and ends up getting the attention of another guy's girlfriend, which leads to upset and a car chase. The whole thing feels like something out of a '50's movie, and not the good kind - the kind they showed on occasion on "Mystery Science Theater 3000". "Detroit Rock Mommies" comes up with another awkward situation for Gene - he gets a demo from an all-girl band he really likes, then is surprised to find out that the women are much older than he'd expected. It's not a bad concept, but the episode never really goes anywhere beyond the predictable. The series goes back to the sort of "Curb" awkwardness is "Love Your Neighbor", which works well, as Gene and Shannon stumble on a few occasions when trying to convince their neighbors to approve a construction project. The episode practically feels like it was taken from a discarded "Curb" script, but it's amusing.
While a few episodes are rather disappointing or dull, there are some highlights, including the pairing of "Shannon the Brave" and "Waiting is the Hardest Part" - two emotional and often moving episodes that see the family shocked and saddened when Shannon has a breast cancer scare. Another highlight is "Gene's Evil Twin", although the best parts of the episode don't come from any members of the family, but instead come from comedian Craig Gass, who stands in for Simmons when he's too sick to do a series of radio interviews. Gass not only does a magnificent impression (and throws in some random Christopher Walken and Tracey Morgan, not to mention a not-half-bad Adam Sandler), but he winds up getting Simmons to do an unexpected appearance. Lastly, there's few things more amusing than Simmons getting stuck in a costume (and trying to convince Stan Lee that it's him) while wandering around ComicCon in "The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth".
"Family Jewels" isn't classic television by any means, but as reality shows go these days, after 5 seasons the series somehow has managed to continue to be mostly entertaining.
• Season 5
79 5-01 21/Mar/10 Shannon the Brave, Part 1
80 5-02 21/Mar/10 Shannon the Brave, Part 2
81 5-03 28/Mar/10 Waiting is the Hardest Part
82 5-04 28/Mar/10 The Demon Turns 60
83 5-05 04/Apr/10 Kisstastrophe, Part 1
84 5-06 04/Apr/10 Kisstastrophe, Part 2
85 5-07 11/Apr/10 Like Father, Like Son
86 5-08 18/Apr/10 Gene Gets Punked
87 5-09 25/Apr/10 Don't Mess with the Simmons
88 5-10 02/May/10 Gene the Croc Hunter
89 5-11 09/May/10 Smarty Pants
90 5-12 20/Jul/10 The Best 100th Episode Ever, Part 1
91 5-13 20/Jul/10 The Best 100th Episode Ever, Part 2
93 5-14 27/Jul/10 Hunks with Hammers
94 5-15 27/Jul/10 Love Thy Neighbor
95 5-16 03/Aug/10 Detroit Rock Mommies
96 5-17 03/Aug/10 Pest Control
97 5-18 10/Aug/10 The Geeks Shall Inherit The Earth
98 5-19 17/Aug/10 Gene's Evil Twin
99 5-20 24/Aug/10 For The Love Of Rock
VIDEO: "Gene Simmons Family Jewels" episodes are presented in 1.78:1 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: 10 scenes of additional footage - nothing that should have been left in, but some amusing moments.
Final Thoughts: "Family Jewels" isn't classic television by any means, but as reality shows go these days, "Family Jewels" manages to mostly entertain - although there are a few more misses this season than in prior ones. The DVD provides fine audio/video quality, as well as one minor extra. Recommended for fans.