TV Preview: Gene Simmons Family Jewels, "Past Demons"

Let's just dispense with any kind of charade that would have me seeming impartial while watching and reviewing this soon-to-be-aired episode because I spent the better part of four years dressed as Ace Frehley and pretending "Beth" was written specifically with me in mind. Forget that my name is Kelly, it was some sort of secret rock and roll pig Latin love code as far as I was concerned.

Put all that aside for a moment and listen to me tell you that this was an exceptional episode that centered around family and its true importance.

Appropriately named "Past Demons," this installment finds our matriarch and patriarch, Shannon and Gene, wondering exactly HOW well any child can really know a parent, especially ones that have spent the better part of their lives in what from the outside appears to be an unconventional manner: rock and roll, Playboy, bombastic thrills, and world domination.

They sit for numerous talks with the stunningly normal and well adjusted Sophie and Nick (the aforementioned offspring), who seem to accept and fully understand their unique parentage while embracing every strange thing that comes with it.

We see old family film footage of the kids frolicking with Grandma and then cut directly to Gene on the CBS lot getting ready to go head-to-head with Kirk, I mean William Shatner on The Shatner Show.


I had NO IDEA he had a talk show!

Anyway, there is some insignificant but funny dialogue between these two about underwear color and then they suddenly switch gears to Gene's Hungarian mother who Gene credits for all his success in life and whose motto is "every day above ground is a good day." This statement takes on a whole new meaning and great weight when it is revealed that she spent a large portion of her childhood trying to survive a concentration camp.

Just as I was blinking away the shock of this revelation they cut right to the KISS mega jet on its way to play to sold out audiences in Europe and giving fake names at the front desk. Shannon, who I love by the way, laments about the other times she's been to Europe, complaining that she actually got to see nothing but the venue doors and the hotel room.

They tour the city of Amsterdam and she attempts a roundhouse kick to Gene's head before suggesting a two-person bike tour through the beautiful cobblestone streets of the city. They stop short in the red light district before Shannon forcibly removes Gene's face from the window of a local brothel and drags him back to the hotel only to meet a young boy (and mega fan) who ends up having more in common with Gene and his mother than anyone could guess.

This kid takes them on a real tour and reveals to Gene that he would like to interview him for a school project and Simmons happily obliges him. The last stop is the Anne Frank House. That is where I saw a side of this rock and roll icon that really touched me. He burst into tears upon seeing the final photos of the young Anne Frank before she went into hiding and I was struck by how much time and care he spent learning her whole heartbreaking story.

They visit Steven's home and his family and we hear about their horrible Holocaust tales, one more heart-wrenching than the next, and after talking about how even though his life is an open book, Gene says he still feels obligated to protect his mother by not speaking about this nightmarish chapter in her life.

Still, the family's honesty and kindness persuades him to open up and share an emotionally powerful memory that really drives home the idea that the lessons from the past really can help us from making the same mistakes in the future and that EVERYONE has a story and a history that bears repeating. He paid proper homage to his vivacious and loving mother with this powerful episode.

It is, however, a show about Gene and his crazy ass-shenanigans so of course we then cut to the sold out madhouse concert in Amsterdam where his new friend Steven is the special guest in the front row.

I'm going to dispense with the snark here and say that I don't think I've ever been quite so touched by a reality show. Yeah, I know a lot of these things are scripted to a degree but I've got to admit his kids and family seem really genuine to me. You can see how much he loves them and they him.

Watch this episode if for nothing else than to see the inspiring stories of survival and Gene's awesome life affirming mom.

The sixth season of Gene Simmons Family Jewels premieres Sunday night, December 5th, at 9:00 PM ET on A&E with the "Past Demons" episode.

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