Saturday, June 18, 2011

Keith 2.0: Countdown Returns to Cable TV

This Monday night Keith Olbermann returns to the 8:00 p.m. timeslot with his “Countdown with Keith Olbermann” program. The show, once a staple of the MSNBC lineup, will be seen on Current TV, Al Gore’s network. Just think Conan O’Brien – NBC to TBS – only worse.

While followers of the progressive show wonder whether it will retain the same signature zeal and sting it had when it aired on MSNBC, this ad – featuring Olbermann in all his self-absorbed glory – promoting the show’s debut should hopefully put to bed any lingering doubts.

“The free flow of information has been thwarted, dissenting voices silenced, and for every story there's a flurry of heavily biased corporate-sponsored spin that can distract even the most engaged viewer. And every day we're left with a bit less clarity. Until now.”

Ahh, how refreshing to hear that golden voice so eloquently and skillfully articulate such undeniable wisdom. Whatever else you may say about dear old Keith, know this much: the man was never at a loss for words, or ego for that matter. He left the most progressive network on cable TV, where he was part of team, for a chance to start his own empire; an empire that as of now consists of one subject and, naturally, one king. How apropos.

But then those who know Olbermann best aren’t surprised that he would opt to, as Milton might say, “rule in his own kingdom than serve in someone else’s.” The suits at MSNBC, while hardly the stifling overlords our dear hero would have us believe they were, nonetheless had a nasty habit of reminding the emperor that he wasn’t the only paragon of reasoning in the joint. Silly things like rules and standards only served to crimp his style and bruise an ego as fragile as fine china in the middle of a bull stampede. At Current, he can do pretty much do any damn thing he feels like without any body stealing his thunder or checking his copy. Hail Caesar!

Of course the real problem for Olbermann will be ratings. Though carried on virtually every outlet out there – with the exception of Cablevision on Long Island – the 8:00 p.m. timeslot is hardly the barren wasteland it was when he first joined MSNBC and helped turned it into the progressive powerhouse it currently is. He will have a difficult time prying away enough viewers from his former employer, not to mention the other competitors like Fox and CNN to make a significant dent in market share. You don’t take your ball and go home for five months and then expect everything to resume as though nothing had happened. Not even Olbermann is that naïve.

My guess is that it will take several months, if not a whole year, before his ratings return to their once “lofty” status. Fortunately for him, Al Gore and company aren’t nearly as “demanding” as MSNBC would be. Translation? His royal highness will be able to grow his kingdom as he sees fit without the usual money-grubbing of an otherwise profit-making network looking for an instant return on its investment. And who knows, all this might end up working out like a charm for him.

For now, the Current TV lineup on Monday looks like this:

7:00 – The OxyContin Express
8:00 – Countdown with Keith Olbermann
9:00 – Gateway to Heroin
10:00 – Life and Death on the Border
11:00 – Countdown with Keith Olbermann
12:00 – Gateway to Heroin

Yep, real riveting over there in Al Gore land. The snickering you hear is coming from the suits at MSNBC. I’ll just bet Rachel Maddow, Chris Matthews and company are shaking in their boots over the impending threat.

All kidding aside, I wish Olbermann well. He is an important voice among progressives, and these days we need every voice we can get out there. I just wish he took himself a little less serious. His departure from prime-time cable was ill timed and ill advised. Now that he is back, the hope is he can channel his energy effectively to make a difference. I, for one, am eager to see the 2.0 version, even if, for the present, I’ll have to do it via youtube.

Good luck, Keith. Go get ‘em!

1 comment:

Tom Degan's Daily Rant said...

Here is a link to Current TV's website heralding the return of Countdown with Keith Olbermann: