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.)
While I've noted a number of times in past reviews that the series has continued to impress me in that it manages to come up with different scenarios over the seasons - the show has felt so scripted at times that it would be best described as more a sitcom than a reality show. However, when the series effectively feels like a rock star version of "Curb Your Enthusiasm" - for all of Gene's business skills, he remains awkward at times in the same manner as "Curb".
The 6th season of the series (and again, I can't imagine anyone would have thought this reality series would have run more than 6 seasons) sees a massive change from the seasons of the past as the season really mainly focuses on a few story arcs rather than the one-off bits that the series usually comes up with.
The series is far more dramatic and serious this season, and the result is a series that's occasionally moving and feels less scripted. The season opens with Shannon having enough of Gene's ways after seeing yet another report of him out-and-about with a pair of woman, neither of them being her. After many years and with their children moving out of the house, she decides that she's finally had enough and moves out.
Shocked, Gene goes into therapy and tries to figure out how to get past his issues and convince Shannon he's changed his ways. Whether or not the season is less scripted, the whole season plays out like an advertisement for how important communication is in a relationship - Shannon discusses being upset about Gene's behavior for years, but not saying anything.
The season does a nice job weaving in more discussion of the Simmons family history, as well as the introduction of Gene's long-lost family members on a trip to Israel. Overall, this season doesn't have quite the same replay value as prior seasons and is quite a departure for the show, but it's a compelling and occasionally moving season.
The first half of the season (which is available separately) focuses on the difficulties between the two, the split and both family history and Gene's long-lost relatives. While the series may still be scripted, the dramatic episodes felt more real and scenes like the end of "Mr Tweed Goes to Canada" where Gene watches Shannon ride off into the snow after another trip where he hasn't changed a thing feels pretty genuine (and the scenery is pretty remarkable.)
The first half of the season ends with the cliffhanger proposal as famously marriage-phobic Gene finally readies himself to make the commitment on a surprise trip. The back half of the season sees Shannon's reaction and the two, little-by-little improving their relationship. There are some nice moments, a few laughs and decent drama in this back half of the season, but the preparations for the wedding are less interesting than the first half just because they feel more like standard reality show fare (although the boot camp of "Wedding Boot Camp" seems particularly harsh.) As with the first half of this season, the season's move towards being more dramatic isn't a bad thing, but this season does have less replay value than the lighter prior seasons.
The series could really have wrapped things up with a wedding at the end of this season. The kids have gone off to college and other things and this is the season that largely focuses on the adults (although there is some discussion from the children about their feelings on the situation at times.) The wedding would seem like a perfect way to close the series, but I suppose as long as there's ratings, the series is going to try to squeeze whatever juice it can get out of the lemon.
DISC 1: The Answer (one-hour) / Till Death Do Us Part (one-hour) / Tracy the Wedding Planner (one-hour) / Wedding Boot Camp (one-hour)
DISC 2: Our Life Passes Before Us / Sleeping with the Boss / The Demon Says I Do? (two-hour) / Post Wedding Special (one-hour) / Bonus
"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.
This is the second half of the sixth season - - the first half is available separately.
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: Some minor additional footage.
Final Thoughts: "Family Jewels" isn't classic television by any means, but as reality shows go these days, "Family Jewels" manages to mostly entertain - this season is moving and different and worth viewing for fans, but probably has less replay value. The DVD provides fine audio/video quality, as well as one minor extra. Recommended for fans.