Twisted Sister frontman Dee Snider's new family reality series, "Growing Up Twisted," just debuted on A&E, but the show's concept dates back two decades. Snider tells Billboard.com that good pal Howard Stern was the first to suggest Snider and his Long Island-based family had the makings of a TV program.
"I was talking on his show one day, telling him about something that happened with the family, and Stern is laughing and saying, 'You kill me. You think you're normal,' " Snider remembers. "I said, 'What do you mean?' He said, 'You're like the Munsters. The Munsters thought they were normal...You should have a camera crew follow you around. That would be hysterical!' "
Snider says the suggestion led him to "write a synopsis of my life," which turned into a discussion and developmental deals with MTM Productions, Disney and even a brief flirtation with VH1 for a proposed series called "Meet the Sniders."
"We did a full-blown test," Snider says, "and they came back to me the next day and said, 'There's good news and bad news, Dee.' The good news is the ratings were great. People love your family. The bad news -- there's not enough conflict. Everyone gets along. Nobody's in rehab. You guys obviously love each other.' At the time, you couldn't have a show if you really liked each other. The Hogans and the Simmons', that changed things; 'Oh, people are interested in a family that likes each other.' "
A&E has signed for seven "Growing Up Twisted" episodes for the Sniders' first season of Tuesday night shows, with plots that include the unorthodox baptism of oldest son Jesse's daughter -- Snider's first grandchild -- at the family home; an argument over the future of the family's backyard trampoline; and a boxing match between Snider's wife, Suzette, and 13-year-old daughter Cheyenne to settle a disagreement. Future episodes will feature Snider recording a new song, "Rock 'n' Roll Ain't Dead," written by Jesse, and well as a Twisted Sister appearance at a Biker's For Babies benefit.
Snider contends that, save for delaying a wedding anniversary celebration so it could be filmed for the show, the reality of "Growing Up Twisted" is, indeed, real. "The events were all generated by us," Snider says, "and several times during the filming of the show I had to pull my wife aside and say, 'You do realize there are cameras on, don't you?' We are honest people, but at the same time I figured they'd clam up when the cameras were on. Apparently not."
But Snider, whose weekly "House of Hair" syndicated radio show is heard on 220 stations in North America, says he's keeping tabs on any "ripple effect" doing the show has on his family. "I've got a nice life, a great family," he explains. "The boys are out of school, but particularly with [Cheyenne], if it's screwing her up, we'll say 'That's it' and it'll be forgotten in short order."
Nevertheless, Snider hopes the show will "shine a light" on everybody's aspirations -- including Jesse's music ("Go With Me," a song he wrote for his daughter's christening, is being sold via iTunes, as well "Rock 'n' Roll Ain't Dead"), aspiring filmmaker Cody's "All That Remains" and Shane's stand-up comedy and his sketch "My Friend Poseidon," which features the entire Snider Clan.
"It's got to have some purpose," says Snider, who's also negotiating to appear in "Rock of Ages" on Broadway. "There's not a lot of money in (the show); the money's in the ancillary stuff, what you can do with the promotion you're getting from it. That's what I really want out of this for everybody."