A&E is the place to watch the latest version of the family reality show genre started by the Osbournes on MTV. However, there are a few major differences between Gene Simmon’s Family Jewels, and the Osbournes, the zany British family led by rocker Ozzy Osbourne and boisterous wife Sharon. The Osbournes enjoyed such a huge audience mainly because the viewers really felt like they were getting a true, fly-on-the-wall view of one of rock’s first families. Ozzy, Sharon, Jack and Kelly really never came across as actors; they didn’t need to. Their own reality was so completely odd and unpredictable that watching paint dry in the Osbourne household was a privilege. However, Kiss frontman Gene “The Tongue” Simmons comes across as the lead actor in a show where his family looks to him to identify their individual roles, especially Simmons’ common-law wife, Shannon Tweed, who was once Playboy Playmate of the year. In the premiere episode we see Shannon trying to one up Gene, who announces (to the cameras) that he is planning a surprise party for her birthday. The kids respond to his announcement in a predictable fashion – with disbelief. How on Earth would daddy Gene, whose clueless approach to the real world (we see him bathing the family dog by throwing the dog into the pool and struggling to run a dishwasher), know the very basics of party planning? Also, given the theme of the first episode – that Gene is truly the King of his manse, to whom all must defer – would Gene be unselfish enough to give his time and energy to his common-law wife?
Gene and Shannon have been together for 23 years, and remain (in Gene’s view) “happily unmarried.” We learn quickly that Gene’s reluctance to commit to the woman who has borne both of the couple’s children is a source of amusement to the two teenagers, Nick and Sophie, and a source of distress to Shannon. But, does Gene care? Not if you believe what you see at the outset of the episode. Gene says to the camera “Marriage is an institution. You also have to be committed to it. If that does not sound like a nuthouse,” he says, studying his nails, “nothing does.” Shannon’s answer to Gene’s indifferent attitude is “If someone does not marry you after 23 years, it means you’re a loser.” Could you imagine Sharon Osbourne being so self-effacing? Are you kidding – Sharon was the ultimate matriarch! Shannon’s own teenage son even chimes in to support his wayward father. “It’s good being a bachelor,” he says laughing. Sad. Another future divorcee or serial monogamist in the making, compliments of Gene Simmons.
Gene then takes the cameras along for an all out bachelor night in Vegas. Just for the heck of it, he leaves his family and goes to Hooters. The girls are draped all over Gene, seeing a human cash register because there is not much else to look at. We see the Alpha male at his coolest – driving the bubbleheads around in a limousine all the while spouting out pathetic lines such as, “I believe that I should have as many women as possible and I believe you should have as many women as possible.” Please. I am humiliated for him, and for his whole family who support his delusional reality in which he is front and center. When Gene appears at home, Shannon asks how Vegas was. His reply? “There were lots of boobs and they were all bouncing into each other.” Yawn. At the end of the day, Shannon pulls a big ol’ staged surprise on Gene and plans an ambush wedding. I’m too bored to even write another word about it, but if you’re worried, Gene is still the man, the myth and the unmarried legend. In his own eyes, at least.