Jan 25 2011

Special Comment: Olbermann Where Art Thou?

Tonight is the State of the Union address.  As is the tradition, I will sit and watch it along with the rest of informed, educated America.  However, this year I’m likely going with Brian Williams and the fine folks over at NBC.  That’s right – no cable punditry this go around.  Why’s that?  Well, other than the fact that the particular partisan tone of “analysts” can become headache-inducing after about an hour, my favorite indignant commenter will be absent from the proceedings.  I’m talking of course about Keith Olbermann, probably the most popular liberal in the country right now (with Bill Maher, who still claims libertarianism, though no one’s buying it, at a close second).

If you follow the news media at all, you already know about Keith’s decision to split with MSNBC on Friday – the announcement was abrupt, but, according to insiders, no one should be surprised.  Olbermann, who has been described as difficult to work with, had been butting heads with his superiors at the network for some time now.  Many speculate it all came to a head when Olbermann was suspended in November for two days for violating NBC News policy by donating to two Democratic election campaigns.

It has also been reported, in good ol’ NBC fashion, Olbermann’s exit clause has strict stipulations on when he can do interviews and appear on television again – several months for both.  In a twist of irony, the deal was completed exactly one year to the day Conan O’Brien exited the company in a similar scenario, even though Keith is definitely not the A-lister Conan is.  O’Brien even made a joke about it on his show last night, claiming the new industry term for this kind of move is called giving someone “the Conan.”  And it looks like the “I’m With Olbo” campaign is already underway.

Whether MSNBC likes it or not, Keith made their network what it is today, even if that is a second-place channel with under half of the viewers of Fox News.  Olbermann, with his Countdown program, slowly built the progressive voice the network is engulfed in today, and he did it in the nick of time, too; the vitriolic rhetoric of Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly had no clear counterweight on television until Keith came around to set things straight in his own fact-based, mocking, and intelligent way.

Countdown was probably the best written show on cable news, and Olbermann’s delivery, whether you agreed with him or not, gave the act of irascibility a certain charm his conservative rivals couldn’t match.  There’s no doubt Olbermann, with his now-dedicated following, will be back in some form, hopefully television where he belongs (I’m looking at you, third-place CNN….get to stepping!).  There have been talks, however, of a move to Hollywood or maybe a run for the Senate; I hope neither are true.  But in the meantime, while we wait and refresh Keith’s Twitter page constantly, here are a few of my favorite Countdown-related moments.

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