MIPCOM: Kiss Star Gene Simmons Slams Coddling TV Talent Show Judges

Gene Simmons Headshot - P 2014
AP Images

Gene Simmons Headshot - P 2014

"You can't sugarcoat shit, pardon me"

Gene Simmons is not one to sugarcoat his opinions.

Precious TV singing-competition show judges who coddle pop-star wannabes, rather than be brutally honest about their lack of talent, don't score points with the Kiss star. "You can't sugarcoat shit, pardon me. You can mentor anyone you like, but it's a waste of time if they don't have the goods intrinsically," Simmons told The Hollywood Reporter at MIPCOM, where he's launching his new reality format Coliseum from Sierra/Engine Television.

The music mogul is putting his own spin on the TV competition show genre by getting tough on contestants. Why? Because the music industry, like life itself, is cutthroat.

"Your qualification for being on this show is you can sing in the shower? Is that it, without paying any dues or writing songs or any stagecraft?" he questioned. Coliseum sees Simmons, who recently entered the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, as Rock Caesar challenging contestants to form rock bands with a winning musical voice and performance.

The reality show veteran will motivate evolving acts before they perform in front of an audience. "We want to open the trapdoors of life and get tough. There will be heartbreak, and people are going to cry and their dreams will be shattered, just like in real life," the Kiss frontman said.

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Simmons understands what leads singing competition show judges to nurture talent, rather than offer harsh and honest evaluations. "TV shows are fantasy because they're selling soap suds. It's family entertainment, it's primetime, the kids are there, and they [broadcasters] don't want to get too realistic," he said.

But Coliseum will prize image over voice when judging talent. "We want to create superstars, not just singers that get record deals," Simmons said. The other twist is that Coliseum will mix and match artists that contend on the show to find the perfect musical act.

Shuffling and reshuffling talent to find the perfect musical act is the focus of another reality TV competition format from Nemo Planet, Birth of a Band, being shopped by Peace Point Rights at MIPCOM this week.

Genesis rock band legend Mike Rutherford, backed by the Internet as a casting platform, will help mentor emerging talent to select contestants from six instrumental/vocal categories. Eric Mueller, senior vp international sales and acquisitions at ‎Peace Point Rights, said music lovers are increasingly going to YouTube and Vimeo to find fresh musical talent.

So Birth of a Band will wrangle talent online before the transition to TV. Each week, competing teams will perform to impress audiences, with online voting leading to the reshuffling or elimination of bandmembers.

The final two teams will compete for the top prize of becoming a supporting act for a major band. "The aim is to identify the next Genesis," Mueller said.