Given the KISS connection, AMC’s “4th and Loud” has appropriately hidden a pretty solid docu-series underneath lots of heavy makeup. At its core, this show about the LA KISS – a new arena football team, which counts KISS members Gene Simmons (last seen in reality circles flashing his “Family Jewels”) and Paul Stanley among the owners – operates on two tracks: A sports show, about guys risking life and limb to chase their football dreams; and a business start-up, where management periodically clashes with the front-line staff. For AMC – whose reality offerings haven’t particularly impressed – the premiere delivers an unexpectedly solid kickoff.
Not surprisingly, the opening moments play up KISS’ rock ‘n roll credentials, but they’re only part of the management brain trust, which also includes KISS manager Doc McGhee, managing partner/owner Brett Bouchy, and president/owner Schuyler Hoversten.
The ownership’s concerns, however, run parallel – and occasionally, at cross-purposes – with those of coach Bob McMillen, and the various players trying out for a shot at the team, where, we’re told, the average compensation is a mere $830 a week. Most hang on to day jobs while going through practices, and in the premiere, two grapple with injuries – one brought about by a car accident that resulted in brain damage years before – that threaten their careers.
There is, perhaps inevitably, some play acting involved. It’s hard to believe, for example, that Simmons is so naïve as to be shocked that playing full-contact football with a head injury might be a life-threatening proposition. (As a footnote, with L.A. in serious drought conditions, it’s also kind of weird to see a practice rained out, which can’t help but make an Angeleno wonder, “When the hell was that?”)
For the most part, though, “4th and Loud” is actually spare and serious, with McMillen pushing back against moronic-sounding plans like having players wear KISS makeup during games – a marketing flourish that he sees, rightly so, as putting showbiz ahead of sports, and turning the players into carnival acts.
Frankly, the series’ game plan might not have enough bells and whistles to flourish as a reality show – where the audience is programmed to tap into outlandish characters – unless people become invested in individual players. And despite the promising start, there’s a lot of game to be played, as it were, until the final gun.
For now, though, AMC has delivered an interesting series whose insights regarding the hunger that drives athletes wouldn’t look out of place on ESPN. And while “4th and Loud” feels a little too understated to make anybody want to rock ‘n roll all nite, it’s not hard to root for this plucky underdog to make a little noise.