TV Review: Growing Up Twisted

If you were a rock musician in the ’80s and you’re finding the rock scene kinda slim pickings nowadays, you needn’t worry, there’s always a TV network or two waiting to turn your life into a Reality TV show. The latest ’80s rock icon to jump on the Reality TV bandwagon is Dee Snider, frontman for the band “Twisted Sister” of “I Wanna Rock” and “We’re Not Gonna Take It” fame. You remember him, don’t you? Tall, skinny guy with gaunt features, with a predilection for wearing drags on stage? That’s Dee Snider.

“Growing Up Twisted”, a new Reality TV show from A&E, makes its debut this week, and follows the “Twisted Sister” frontman as he deals with everyday life alongside wife Suzette Snider and kids Jesse, a musician; wannabe diva Cheyenne; Cody, a filmmaker; and Shane, an aspiring, of all things, stand-up comedian. Jesse’s wife and child also lives with the family.

“Growing Up Twisted” is exactly what you’d expect — a “reality” TV show that is as “real” as you’re gonna get from a family that grew up in front of the cameras. The fact that every single one of Snider’s kids are all intent on making it in professions where the ultimate reward is fame is a pretty good giveaway that this is less about “reality” than it is about getting the kids a short-cut into celebrityhood. For Snider, it’s mostly about getting back into the spotlight.

Hey, it worked for the Coreys… And Steven Seagal… And Gene Simmons…

The pilot episode features one of those make-up “plots” involving the family trying to organize a Christening for Snider’s granddaughter and, I kid you not, the dismantling of Cheyenne’s childhood trampoline, which ends in the episode’s most “real” moment — Cody cutting his head while taking down the trampoline. The family then attends Shane’s first stand-up gig, before getting into a screaming match at a restaurant about one of the comedians who insulted the family’s honor or some such. I share poor Shane’s anguish as he looks on as his family loudly screams at each other, oblivious to the fact that they’re inside what looks like a pretty upscale restaurant.

The second episode follows Snider and Suzette as they celebrate their anniversary. Lots of talk about Snider and Suzette’s sex life with their children, which is creepy and awkward and just downright wrong. I really didn’t need to know that Snider once tried to pull a fast one on Suzette “back there” only to be rebuffed. Mind you, not that I’m a prude or anything, but who are we kidding here, Suzette. Never? Yeah, right.

The best comparison for “Growing Up Twisted” is A&E’s other Reality TV show “Gene Simmons Family Jewels”. But unlike “Jewels”, which seems singularly to exist purely for Simmons to hawk his various business ventures (including, of course, himself), “Twisted” seems more intent on making us believe that there are exciting and interesting things to see among the Snider family. I’m not sure I’m buying.

Whereas Simmons and the clan seem to have agreed on Day 1 that there’s no real “reality” to be glean there, Snider and family seems wholly earnest about their life. If nothing else, watching a teenage girl crying over her trampoline and forcing her father to help her put it back together is kind of, well, novel. But how real are those tears? Who knows.

“Growing Up Twisted” airs on A&E on Tuesdays. Check your local listings.