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Gene Simmons Family Jewels: Final Season

A&E Video // Unrated // September 24, 2013
List Price: $19.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Aaron Beierle | posted October 8, 2013 | E-mail the Author

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) saw 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 sixth season focused on the difficulties with the relationship between Gene and Shannon. While I think it becomes apparent that these issues were maybe boiling beneath the surface and weren't really communicated until Shannon became extremely upset and had pretty much had enough.

The season saw a shocked Gene go to therapy and try to work out his issues. Although the two eventually patched things up, there was still hints of Gene not learning lessons and Shannon's underlying upset. Even after the two worked things out, scenes between the two still had a real tension and upset that was difficult to watch - maybe the series is still scripted, but the emotional moments certainly feel genuine and rough.

That underlying tension carries over into this final season and it's partly because of that that it's fitting that the series has called it quits after this season. The seventh season sees Shannon wanting to adopt, despite Gene's considerable reluctance, as well as upset from Nick and Sophie ("The Adoption Plan", "Where's Sophie?")

Given how they have just patched things up in the prior season, the arguing and strain of this immense decisions results in visible cracks showing in the relationship once again. To make matters worse, Shannon remains not entirely convinced that Gene has changed his ways. Again, while the series previously has largely been specific episodes without larger story arcs, this season is largely a few story arcs (largely adoption and martial issues), with only a few episode-specific stories, which aren't particularly interesting ("Lost Phone", where Nick...loses his phone.)

Reality shows are certainly voyeuristic by nature, although "Family Jewels" took a real swing from effectively being a sitcom with real people to an uncomfortable look at family difficulties. The last couple of seasons are genuinely rather sad and not as scripted as prior seasons. There's drama in reality shows in the manner of the "Real Housewives" shows, and then there's this sort of drama. While things are apparently better between Shannon and Gene (who just renewed their vows), the show's decision to stop feels right. "Family Jewels" worked well as an effectively scripted series that often felt like some bizarre rock star version of "Curb Your Enthusiasm", but as a dramatic series, the series is not compelling viewing - in fact, one wishes the series could have called it a day after the sixth season.
This set thankfully includes all of the final season - the season has not been broken up unto volumes.


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: About 15 minutes of bonus footage.

Final Thoughts: "Family Jewels" worked well as a sitcom-ish look at the "reality" of Gene Simmons. As the series edged towards upset and drama in season 6, the series starts to become tense and difficult to watch. While the sixth season had a few powerful moments (such as when Gene went to meet family members he had never met before), the seventh season is unnecessary. The DVD offers fine audio/video quality, although little in the way of extras. Not recommended aside from fans who are looking to complete their collection of the series. Speaking of that, given Gene's history of marketing products, I'd be surprised if there was not a whole series set in a giant Kiss-themed box and somehow the discs - which are top-loaded - roll down a giant tongue.
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