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Paul Stanley, left, and Gene Simmons trade guitars for the gridiron on reality series 4th and Loud.

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Paul Stanley, left, and Gene Simmons trade guitars for the gridiron on reality series 4th and Loud.

For a show that features two of rock 'n' roll's most bombastic, flamboyant personalities, 4th and Loud is a surprisingly mild-mannered affair.

The new docu-reality series offers viewers a behind-the-scenes look at the inaugural season of the L.A. Kiss, the Arena Football League expansion franchise co-owned by Kiss frontmen Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons.

But the Stanley and Simmons we see here are not the outrageously studded, spiked, leather-clad and makeup-adorned rockers who've made a nice living out of creating a pyrotechnics-augmented, eardrum-shattering spectacle in arenas all over the world.

Instead, the guys featured in 4th and Loud favour business suits and engage in soft-spoken boardroom conversations involving marketing, brand-building and player-personnel decisions. Perhaps by choice, Stanley and Simmons are far from the most animated and/or interesting characters in this "unscripted" series.

By way of background, the Kiss tandem's involvement in the Arena Football League dates back to when the band was invited to play during the AFL's season-ending Arena Bowl weekend. Both sides were impressed by the experience, and discussions began over Simmons and Stanley being involved in an effort to bring pro football back to Los Angeles.

As 4th and Loud opens, the new franchise is very much in its formative stage. The ownership group (which also includes Kiss manager Doc McGhee and a couple of AFL front-office veterans, managing partner Brett Bouchy and president Schuyler Hoversten) has just hired a coaching staff (led by AFL player-turned-coach Bob McMillen) and is preparing a roster of players who will be invited to the franchise's spring training camp.

Simmons and Stanley have yet to meet the league's other team owners, but they have already created a bit of a stir by boldly (and, given the shallow pool of talent available, ill-advisedly) declaring that the L.A. Kiss will be the first expansion franchise in pro-sports history to win a league championship in its first season.

As McMillen and his staff run through the training-camp roster, Simmons and Stanley accompany their new business partners to AFL meetings. Immediately upon being introduced to other owners, Stanley puts his foot in his mouth by declaring -- albeit as humbly as he can -- that the addition of the Kiss brand is going to take the league's image to places these other franchisees have only dreamed of going.

A quick pan of the room by the documentary's camera shows a rather unimpressed bunch -- including L.A. Kiss co-owner Bouchy -- waiting for Stanley to finish speaking so the real business of the meeting can begin.

For most of its première, 4th and Loud is anything but what its title suggests. There's some fairly compelling stuff in sequences that focus on training-camp sessions leading up to the first round of roster-reducing cuts, but scenes dealing with the business side of the AFL's newest franchise feel more like a tame episode of The Apprentice than a Kiss stage spectacle.

Interesting personalities emerge -- Coach McMillen brings a decidedly old-school attitude to his handling of on-field activities; brothers Beau and B.J. Bell could make an interesting roster pair; quarterback J.J. Raterink represents an entire subculture of gridiron near-misses who couldn't quite grab the NFL's brass ring and were left carving out a meagre existence in football's minor leagues.

One surprising aspect of 4th and Loud is how hands-on Stanley seems to be in many aspects of the L.A. Kiss operation, from helping to design helmets and jerseys to sitting in on cheerleader tryouts ("We don't want the girl next door," he tells a roomful of swaying and writhing hopefuls, "we want the girl you wish were next door").

Overall, however, 4th and Loud is a bit like the team (which went 3-15 in its rookie year) whose fortunes it follows: its launch was preceded by plenty of flash and boldly stated promises, but once the week-to-week grunt work begins, the results are middling at best.

brad.oswald@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @BradOswald

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 12, 2014 C3

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