Do You Love Them? Andy Burns on an emotional season of Gene Simmons Family Jewels

Are you watching Gene Simmons Family Jewels? If you aren’t, you should be. And if you are, well, how much kleenex have you been going through the last few weeks?

I know, I know – you read that first paragraph and rolled your eyes, figuring that this so-called reality show is probably as scripted as the rest of them. While I’m sure the show’s writers no doubt place Gene, his longtime gal pal Shannon Tweed and their kids, Nick and Sophie, in predetermined scenarios, I do believe that, more often than not, we’re seeing the Simmons family’s genuine reactions to what’s happening on the show. Which means, the last few weeks have seen Shannon leave Gene after 27 years because of his philandering and absentee ways, Sophie threaten to stop speaking to her father if he doesn’t start to change his life around, and an eventual reconciliation between the two as they enter therapy together. While all that “stuff” has made for great television, it was this past Tuesday’s third episode of the season that really touched a nerve with me.

In the episode, we see Gene Simmons return to the city of Haifa in Israel, the land of his birth. Gene hadn’t been back since he and his mother Florence left when he was just 7 years old. The two of them made a life for themselves in New York while Gene’s father moved on and started another family. The two never saw one another again, though Gene would support his dad and pay medical expense until the elder Simmons death some years ago. On this trip, much to Gene’s surprise, Shannon introduced him to siblings he didn’t know he had – a brother, and three sisters. The interaction with his new family was so revealing and emotional, a clear demonstration that behind the Demon of KISS is a 62 year old man who loves his family and that, despite his wealth and fame, may also have some serious regrets he’s just now becoming aware of.

Unlike other reality tv shows, Gene Simmons Family Jewels actually features a likable family, one who allow real feelings to be displayed on television. Believe me, Gene is not that good an actor; when you see him kneeling in front of his father’s tombstone, apologizing for never seeing him again, those emotions are real. For all his bluster and egomaniacal ways, I genuinely believe we may be seeing one of rock’s living legends attempt to finally grow up. There’s also heartwarming love emanating from Shannon Tweed, who is more than willing to try and help her longtime partner come to grips with his past and present. The duo clearly have their issues, but you definitely find yourself rooting for them to keep their life together going.

Real or otherwise, Gene Simmons Family Jewels is offering some moving television. If you’ve never checked it out, it airs Tuesday nights at 10pm on A & E.

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