Saturday, January 22, 2011

Keith Olbermann Announces End of Countdown

Keith Olbermann shocked thousands of his MSNBC viewers Friday night when he announced, without benefit of any countdown leading up to it, that they were watching his last show. In a story this morning, The Washington Post reports:
Keith Olbermann, the combative left-leaning anchor of MSNBC's most popular program, "Countdown," surprised viewers Friday night by announcing that the show would be his last. Olbermann said he had been told by MSNBC that the cable network was ending his contract.
So far no one is saying why the network won't continue his contract. During the recent American mid-term elections Olbermann got his wrists slapped with a two-day suspension for making contributions to political candidates, contrary to network policy. From The Post:
During the campaign-contribution flap, the network said it was acting under an NBC News policy that prohibits political contributions by its employees without prior approval. But Olbermann was publicly unapologetic about his behavior, expressing his disdain for MSNBC's decision when he returned to the air after his suspension - which was the culmination of several run-ins between Olbermann and MSNBC's president, Phil Griffin.
One of Olbermann's political contributions was to the campaign of Rep Gabrielle Giffords, the Democrat congress woman shot through the brain in the Jan. 8 shootings in Tucson.

The Washington Post story talks about Olbermann's replacement, Lawrence O'Donnell, a former congressional aide and able interviewer who began hosting his own MSNBC program at 11 pm back in the fall. O'Donnell has often been the fill-in for regular MSNBC hosts, and frequently left me wondering when he'd get his own show.

Well, he got his own show. And now he's got Keith's. As for Olbermann, The Post reports:
In his farewell, he referred to the movie "Network," a 1976 satire about the television business that made famous the phrase, "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore."
"I think the same fantasy has popped into the head of everybody in my business who has ever been told what I have been told, that this is going to be the last edition of your show," Olbermann said. "You go directly to the scene from the movie 'Network,' complete with the pajamas, and the raincoat, and you go off on an existential, otherworldly journey of profundity and vision. You damn the impediments and insist upon the insurrections, and then you emit Peter Finch's guttural, resonant, Soooo. And you implore, you will the viewer to go to the window, open it, stick out his head and yell . . . well, you know the rest." 
So what lead to his surprise ending of Countdown, without benefit of any countdown at all?

Some say it had to do with the campaign contribution issue in the fall, others that it ties into sale of NBC to new, more conservative owners, the cable giant Comcast.

Olbermann played the tough lefty combating the tough righties over at Fox.

My biases are more with Olbermann and MSNBC than with Fox and his nemesis Bill O'Reilly. The words between Olbermann and O'Reilly often became heated,  especially when Olbermann claimed O'Reilly (or one of the Fox folk) had got their facts wrong. Too often, though, the whole right vs left script sounded juvenile. I found it was getting stale.

Coincidentally, I had commented about Olbermann on The Exuberant Eclectic a few days ago. While I enjoy watching him, and appreciate his social justice leanings, the concern I'd expressed was about his Worst Person in the World segments in a post on civility in the aftermath of the Tucson shootings, which left six people dead and 13 injured.

I'll miss Olbermann. I found him articulate, usually well informed, and with a well honed sardonic wit. O'Donnell will no doubt do a good job, especially because he brings to the job his insider's knowledge having worked on the Hill. And his genteel manner will be to the liking of those who found Keith too combative for their tastes.

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