If you were to draw a Venn diagram of reality shows, rock stars and football coaches, at the centre of it you'll find the MO for AMC's latest reality series: the louder, the better. "4th and Loud," which premieres Tuesday night, follows legendary rockers Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley in their latest venture, as they lend their brand and proven talent for putting on a show to the Arena Football League's newest team, the LA KISS, as part owners.
Promising to be like "Hard Knocks" meets "Gene Simmons: Family Jewels," it's a clever bit of vertical integration to help promote the expansion team's inaugural season with a new reality show, and vice versa. And while it remains to be seen how that works out on the football field, it's certainly a compelling concept for TV.
In the premiere, we meet the key members of the team both on and off the field, which, in addition to Simmons and Stanley, include the LA KISS' managing partner/co-owner Brett Bouchy, decorated head coach Bob McMillen, and team president/co-owner Schuyler Hoversten (who doesn't get much screen time in the opening episode, but anyone with a pair of gilded machine gun desk lamps seems promising). While Simmons and Stanley audition the KISS Dancers, Coach McMillen and his assistants put the players through their paces in training camp, looking to cut the roster from 35 hopefuls (a mixture of AFL vets, former NFLers and walk-ons) down to 24.
The problem is, what's best for the team (and by extension, the show) is up to the team doctors as much as the front office. And in only the first episode, the team loses two players both the coaches and producers were counting on to become stars: former Heisman candidate Colt Brennan, looking to get his career back on track after a serious car accident and resulting brain injury, and motor-mouthed cornerback Jorrick Cavlin, who calls McMillen "Daddy Bob" and seems like reality TV gold, but has similar troubling passing his physical.
Despite those losses, which make the first episode a bit of a downer (everything that can go wrong, seemingly does, including a rained-out scrimmage), the general arcs of the show are established, pitting marketing against football and the brand-focused Bouchy against McMillen's Xs and Os. But when Bouchy suggests the players wear KISS' trademark face paint, even the legendarily over-the-top rockers aren't sure that's such a good idea.
Getting a sports team off the ground in six months in a major media market like LA isn't easy, which guarantees some tailor-made behind-the-scenes drama for the show, but the real draw for most viewers will be the rockers themselves, who promise to be hands-on owners. And Stanley in particular steals the show, tossing pizzas, designing the team's helmets, and accidentally insulting their fellow AFL owners by casually suggesting no one really cared about the league before they showed up. It's a bit of an over-exaggeration (this is reality TV, after all), but there's no denying "bringing the KISS mentality" to the league should help draw crowds both in the stands and on couches -- which has to be a welcome sight in a league where we're told the average player makes $830 a week, and the quarterback plans on taking a second job during the season.
All told, "4th and Loud" will likely end up being more entertaining for KISS fans than football die-hards, but there's enough of an overlap to make both the team and the series worth following. It all comes down to putting on a good show, and while it'll take a few more episodes to see if either the LA KISS or "4th and Loud" will be able to make good on the band's "You wanted the best, you got the best" mantra, so far at least, the new series seems to promise more hard-hitting action than a "Real Housewives" supercut.