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
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
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,
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.
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
“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
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 …
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
“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
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
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
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,
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
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
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.
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
Ventura, Pet Detective [WABC, 7,
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.]