Rocker docusoap grew from a 'Biography' special

Gene Simmons is gearing up to star in his own “Osbournes”-style docusoap for A&E.

Cabler has greenlit “Gene Simmons’ Family Jewels,” one of three new shows the channel will premiere this year. A&E also unveiled four series pilots in contention for pickups Wednesday during the cable portion of the Television Critics Assn. winter press tour.

A&E exec veep-general manager Bob DeBitetto said the “Family Jewels” series grew from a “Biography” special on Simmons.

“Suffice it to say, he lives in an interesting world, both unconventional and traditional at the same time,” exec said. In the past year, Simmons was a guest judge on “American Idol” and starred in the VH1 reality series “Rock School,” teaching classically trained students in the U.K. about rock ‘n’ roll.

A&E skein will revolve around the family life of Simmons, his longtime girlfriend Shannon Tweed (a former Playmate of the Year) and their two kids. The Grief Co./A Day With and the Gene Simmons Co. are producing.

Cabler’s previously announced series commitments include “Driving Force,” a reality show following a family of drag racers from Schmaguuli Prods.; and “King of Cars,” a behind-the-scenes look at the world of car sales from Hybrid Films (“Dog the Bounty Hunter”).

DeBitetto says new projects “continue to explore the cinema verite storytelling” the cabler has succeeded with in shows like “Dog” and “Growing Up Gotti.” But cabler’s latest effort in the docusoap genre, frosh skein “Rollergirls,” got off to a rocky start last week with 1.6 million viewers tuning in (compared to the 2.7 million who watched the “Dog” lead-in). Second episode stumbled further Monday, drawing just 631,000.

DeBitetto is unfazed by early results. “I don’t think the genre will go away — it really depends on the show,” he said. “I still think we can build an audience for ‘Rollergirls.’ “

Network has also purchased a series of 13 one- to three-minute vignettes titled “Elevator Moods.” Stories take place entirely within the confines of an elevator. Execs aren’t certain how the clips will be used on-air, but branded A&E interstitials are a possibility.

Overall, A&E is coming off a second year of double-digit growth — up 12% in the key 18-49 demo. Median age is 48.

Pilots up for consideration include the following:

  • “Commander Castle,” a half-hour revolving around U.K. cop Paul Castle as he trains Stateside officials with his unorthodox methods. CBS Eye Too Prods. produces.

  • “A Guy Walks Into a Bar,” a sketch comedy show in which the jokes are introduced at a bar. George Wendt (“Cheers”) and George Gray (“Junkyard Wars”) produce.

  • “Polar Posse,” which follows a young volunteer fire-fighting and EMT squad that take place of 911 officials in a small Alaskan town. Engel Brothers Media produces.

  • “Finally a Family,” an in-depth look at the adoption process through the eyes of two sets of parents vying for a child. New Line TV produces.

A&E has also slated one-hour spec “Rock Paper Scissors,” which will chronicle this year’s Rock Paper Scissors Tournament from the House of Blues in Las Vegas. Protagonist Prods. produces in association with USARPS League.

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