MSNBC’s Twisted Sister … (She’s Got) Greta Van Susteren Eyes … Did VH1 Bend for Britney’s Mom?

Wednesday, Feb. 6

CNN has James Earl Jones. Saturday

Night Live has Don Pardo. Comedy Central has Penn Jillette. Now MSNBC has

its signature voice man, and he’s a doozy:

Dee Snider, the former lead singer of the heavy metal band

Twisted Sister.

MSNBC hasn’t made a big fuss about it, but Mr. Snider has been

doing voice-overs for the news network since the early winter. He’s recorded

promotions for Brian Williams, Ashleigh Banfield and Alan Keyes, among others.

” Ashleigh Banfield-wherever

the story goes, she’s there ,” Mr. Snider raspily intones in one spot. ” Getting the tough interviews. Finding the

real answers .”

Mr. Snider, the voice behind the 80′s anthem “We’re Not Gonna

Take It”-and the man who memorably feuded with Tipper Gore over music

censorship and used to wear more makeup than Tammy Faye Bakker-was hired by

MSNBC after a lengthy search, said Val Nicholas, the network’s vice president

of advertising, promotion and marketing.

“We wanted a little bit of in-your-face,” Mr. Nicholas said. “We

wanted somebody to cut through all of this clutter. Plus, I used to like

Twisted Sister.” 

Mr. Nicholas said that the first time he heard Mr. Snider’s

scratchy voice, he didn’t know it belonged to the singer. He said an MSNBC

colleague, Dave McCoy, purposely kept that fact from him, playing Mr. Snider’s

audition tape without disclosing that it was the Long Island–based rocker.

“I thought, ‘Wow, this is great,’” said Mr. Nicholas. “And Dave

goes, ‘O.K., good. Because it’s Dee Snider from Twisted Sister.’”

Mr. Nicholas said that MSNBC president Erik Sorenson, NBC News

president Neal Shapiro and NBC network president and chief operating officer

Andrew Lack all signed off on Mr. Snider.

Mr. Nicholas said that neither Mr. Snider’s rock-star roots nor

his wars with Ms. Gore-then heading an organization called the Parents’ Music

Resource Center-were considered a problem by the network executives.

“He’s pretty much a regular guy who just got into rock ‘n’ roll,”

Mr. Nicholas said. “He was always married; he always had a family.”

MSNBC, which currently trails Fox News and CNN in the cable-news

wars, has a younger audience than its competition. Mr. Nicholas, who once used

the actor Charlie Sheen to do spots for CNBC, said the network wanted a

“different voice” that was less stodgy than traditional news announcers.

But so far, Mr. Nicholas said, MSNBC viewers have not caught on

to the famous name behind the network’s new voice.

“We don’t advertise that,” he said. “But we’re not ashamed of it,

either.”

Mr. Snider, currently in Texas working on a movie for VH1 about

his battles with Ms. Gore and the PMRC-he’s playing himself-seemed thrilled

about the new gig. The singer, who now hosts a nationally syndicated radio

show, has done voice-over work for several years, for clients including Sony

and the New York Lottery. He also did some voice-over work for CNN, he said,

but not anything as big as his work for MSNBC.

“MSNBC was apparently looking for more of an attitude,” Mr.

Snider said.

Mr. Snider added that when he heard MSNBC was looking for a new

voice, he assumed it would be more straightforward and serious. But when he

went in to record the spots, the network brass pushed him to be his rough

rocker self.

“They really wanted that guy that I am when I’m doing my morning

radio,” Mr. Snider said. “Just sort of self-assured-’I know what the fuck I’m

talking about, and you want to listen to me because I’m the shit . And if I say that MSNBC is the

best news on cable, then it is the best news, because I said so.’”

Mr. Snider, who is married with four children, described himself

as an avid watcher of television news. “I would always bounce between CNN and

MSNBC, because I like to see what’s going on,” he said. “I do morning radio, so

I like to stay current. I need to know just enough to get myself in trouble

each morning.”

Mr. Snider said his sandpaper-like voice is the byproduct of

decades of wailing at the top of his lungs. The singer, who records his spots

from his home studio, said he never smoked, drank or did drugs. “But I did

screech my brains out night after night after night for thousands of shows, and

it gave me a voice-over career,” he said.

Indeed, Mr. Snider’s career has lately enjoyed something of a

resurgence. In addition to the voice-over and radio work, Twisted Sister’s Behind the Music special has been on

heavy rotation on VH1 lately. And now there’s the TV movie.

“I’m wearing clothes I actually wore to the Senate hearings!” Mr.

Snider said of the film. “My snakeskin boots and my skintight blue jeans. Thank

God I fit into all that shit still.”

Tonight on MSNBC, Alan Keyes announces he’s going to be donning

six-inch platform heels and touring with Motörhead. Alan Keyes Is Making Sense. [MSNBC, 43, 10 p.m.]

Thursday, Feb. 7

Eyes-yi-yi! Well, like the rest of

shallow, cosmetic-obsessed America, we stayed up until 10 p.m. on Monday, Feb.

4, to watch the Fox News Channel debut of CNN defector Greta Van Susteren and

her brand-new … look.

Maybe the fuss over Ms. Van Susteren’s face was a bit overblown;

everyone knows more than a few news people, including the big boys, have gone

in for a bit of “trimming” now and then. But Ms. Van Susteren’s face was news

because, well, it looked so different from her CNN one. She said she went in

and simply got the bags under her eyes removed. But she came out looking like …

Serena Altschul.

And golly, it sure gave a spark to Ms. Van Susteren’s Fox News

debut. For weeks, people have been wondering how Ms. Van Susteren, a well-rated

if low-key personality on CNN, would fit into Fox’s high-voltage prime-time

lineup.

“It’s so silly,” Ms. Van Susteren told The Observer on Feb. 4, several hours before her Fox premiere. “I

wish I had the genius to have planned this so I could have generated this buzz

to start a new show.”

Ms. Van Susteren said the Eye-Tuck Ruckus had not been a

distraction from the planning of her show, which is called On

the Record . (Hey,

doesn’t Bob Costas have an HBO show called On

the Record , too?) She sounded similarly unfazed about the flap over a

letter that her husband and lawyer, John Coale, had sent to CNN chairman Walter

Isaacson, portions of which were reprinted in the January 28 New York Times.

In the letter, Mr. Coale claimed that CNN had not promoted Ms.

Van Susteren as much as other top talents and had treated her as a

“second-class citizen.”

Ms. Van Susteren said on Monday that the letter was not intended

as a “parting shot,” but as an accounting of the reasons why she wanted to

leave CNN-which, she pointed out, had countered with a financial offer greater

than that of the Fox News Channel.

“Leaving CNN was a bit of a heartbreak for me,” Ms. Van Susteren

conceded. But she maintained that her former network had altered its

priorities. “I had 10 fabulous years and there are great anchors and

correspondents, but when AOL came in and they threw out 10 percent of the

people-a lot of people who had been running the business-it changed,” she said.

“And it really had a dampening effect, in my opinion, on morale and

enthusiasm.”

Though Ms. Van Susteren said she was thrilled to be at Fox, she,

too, isn’t totally clear on how she’ll mesh with the likes of Bill O’Reilly’s O’Reilly Factor and the peppy Hannity & Colmes . She also said she

didn’t know exactly what to expect from a 10 p.m. audience; Ms. Van Susteren’s

CNN show had been at 8 p.m.

“I think this show has got to roll for a while before I have a

total grip on who the audience is, so I can talk about the issues that matter

to them,” she said.

Had Ms. Van Susteren at least gotten an autographed copy of Mr.

O’Reilly’s latest book, The No Spin Zone:

Confrontations with the Powerful and Famous in America ?

“Not yet,” she said. “I picked it up in the airport and paid full

freight.”

What did she think of it?

“Ahhh, it’s a good, interesting read,” she said. “He pushes

people’s buttons and he gets people going. I hope I enjoy 95 per cent of his

success. I’d like 100 per cent, but I’m just not that optimistic.”

Tonight on On the Record ,

Ms. Van Susteren, to calm her critics, announces she’s sleeping in a hyperbaric

chamber. [FNC, 46, 10 p.m.]

Friday, Feb. 8

Britney Spears’ mom, Lynne, has always been, shall we say, involved ; she even co-authored her

famous daughter’s autobiography, Britney

Spears: Heart to Heart . And when VH1 decided to feature the Britster on its

new series Driven, a source close to

the network said, Lynne Spears managed to get her paws on the episode and

exercise a little bit of motherly editorial influence.

Driven, a product of

VH1′s revamped news division, is a Behind

the Music –style series that traces musical artists’ lives by talking to

people who knew them when they were nobodies. Because Driven doesn’t rely on the artists’ participation, it doesn’t hinge

on their stamp of approval, either. This is supposed to give it some, you know,

news credibility.

For the episode about Britney

Spears, Driven ‘s producers

interviewed the pop singer’s first dance teacher, first agent, ex-boyfriend,

high-school basketball coach, third-grade teacher, sister, Mickey Mouse Club casting director, and Russian gymnastics coach

Béla Károlyi. And though they didn’t talk to Britney herself, VH1 did interview

Lynne Spears. 

A week before the show’s Jan. 22 premiere, a source close to the

network said, producers sent a copy of Driven

to Britney Spears’ label, Jive Records-who shipped it, in turn, it to Lynne

Spears. And Mama was miffed, the source said.

According to the source, the elder Ms. Spears objected to a

comment made by another interviewee that implied Ms. Spears’ father, Jamie, was

the driving influence behind Britney. Ms. Spears wanted the mention of Mr.

Spears-who is no longer with Britney’s mother-stricken from the show, the

source said.

A couple days before airtime, the source continued, VH1 complied

and struck the comment from the episode.

A VH1 producer, James Bolosh, acknowledged that a copy of Driven was sent to Jive Records prior to

airing, and that the copy had found its way to Lynne Spears.

“She watched it and she gave back some comments,” he said. “And

it cleared up some inconsistencies in other people’s interviews.

“Sometimes people don’t tell the truth,” Mr. Bolosh went on.

“There were just some facts that needed to be fixed.”

But Mr. Bolosh denied that the program had been changed to

accommodate Lynne Spears. “That’s ridiculous,” he said. “We made the change in

the show to give it that factual integrity. None of us wants to do something

that’s not correct.”

A representative for Britney Spears, Lisa Kasteler, did not

respond to a request for comment. Michael Hirschorn, the former Inside.com

co-founder and Spin honcho recently

brought aboard to helm VH1′s news division, declined comment.

-Rebecca Traister

Tonight on VH1, Behind the Music gets under the tube socks of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. [VH1, 19, 8 p.m.]

Saturday, Feb. 9

Bring in the Tonya ! The Winter

Olympics kicks up its blades tonight with a big figure-skating hoo-hah

live (we think; this is NBC) from

Salt Lake City. [WNBC, 4, 8 p.m.]

Sunday, Feb. 10

Since the Olympics are on, most of

the other networks dip into their Vaults of Crap. Case in point: Tonight ABC’s

got Ace

Ventura, Pet Detective [WABC, 7,

7  p.m.]

Monday, Feb. 11

Tonight on ABC, it’s Ace

Ventura: When Nature Calls . Man, the Susan Lyne Era has beeee-gun ! [WABC, 7, 8 p.m.]

Tuesday, Feb. 12

It’s Fashion Week, so the Metro Channel’s indefatigable Judy Licht

is back on the case in the tents for Full Frontal Fashion. Any new

wrinkles this season, Judy? “Yeah-I’ve got one on my right cheek!” Ms. Licht

howled. We doubt it; see for yourself. [MET,

70, 10 p.m.]