Since the season premiere of “Gene Simmons Family Jewels,” everyone and their goldfish has kindly informed me of their opinion of the Gene/Shannon split. Not who’s right or who’s wrong, but that the whole thing is fake. “They’re going to get married at the end of the season,” a friend of mine said, nodding knowingly. “It’s just for ratings.” Another complained that Tweed and Simmons were being “gross” for faking the dissolution of their relationship as a “cheap ratings ploy.” Even my husband, who half-heartedly watched last night’s show, chimed in. “It just seems so staged,” he sighed.
The implication is, of course, that without veracity the show has no value. Which is kind of funny, because if you expect an accurate depiction of just about anything in reality TV, I hear there’s a bridge in Brooklyn they’re letting go cheap. Not that it matters, because I haven’t changed my mind. After last night’s double episodes (“KISS Your Family Goodbye” and “You Always Hurt the Ones You Love”), I still don’t care if this fracture in the Simmons-Tweed household is real or not. It seems to me that, perhaps despite themselves, Simmons and his family are revealing some hard truths about what happens when a longtime relationship skids off the road.
While “You Always Hurt the Ones You Love” ended on a decidedly upbeat (and yes, seemingly manufactured) note as Tweed and Simmons reconnected across a crowded dance floor while their son sang the title song, for the most part these episodes weren’t particularly dramatic. No yelling, no screaming. Yes, some tears here and there, but overall this hour of television was decidedly restrained. It was often what wasn’t said that was most telling.
Nick, who is usually a pretty self-assured presence on the show, seemed to curl into himself. In trying to express to his father how he felt about his mother leaving the house, he mumbled something disjointed that seemed to make sense to his dad but wasn’t exactly coherent. While Shannon mused that she’s relieved that the split is happening now that the kids are grown so that she doesn’t have to worry about them being scarred, I think that may be optimistic. Nick may have been able to sing in front of an audience but at home, he could barely make eye contact with his dad, preferring to take a grocery list rather than talk to him about Mom.
While Nick (and Sophie as well) was able to open up to Shannon in her hotel room, Dad was met with awkward small talk and.muttering. It was pretty clear whom the kids were siding with, and while last week Sophie had no problem telling her dad she was capable of shutting him out of her life, that clearly wasn’t so easy for Nick. Even without the dragon boots, the guy’s a little intimidating. You can sense the conflict Nick has – he loves his dad, fears him even, but how do you talk to a guy who considers feelings unmanly about how his family unraveling before his eyes?
And about that ending. Too pat, too contrived to be believed – but you can see how badly both Tweed and Simmons want that happy ending, whether it was constructed or not. Not that we don’t see one of the couple’s glaring problems – flocking hot chicks that must be shooed away by Sophie --before a romantic moment with Shannon can take place. It feels like a brief, uneasy détente, and I suspect that’s what it is. Let the roller coaster ride continue.