Rich Lowry on “Meltdown with Keith Olbermann:”
There was only one way for the marriage between Keith Olbermann and Al Gore to end: in acrimony and, very likely, in court.
Olbermann, the former ESPN, Fox Sports Net, and MSNBC (twice) host, is now a former Current TV host. He is to the anchor desk what Zsa Zsa Gabor is to the marriage altar. The left-wing commentator joined the network started by the left-wing former vice president in an arrangement that both conceived of as a way to stick it to The Man, particularly The Man who runs The Corporate Media.
Olbermann gushed upon his hiring that Current would offer “news that is produced independently of corporate interference,” in a “model truth-seeking entity.” Gore bragged about his network’s ability to give Olbermann an “independent platform and freedom.” It turns out that both might have benefited from the discipline of a harsh corporate overlord, since Olbermann didn’t always show up for work and Gore couldn’t keep the lights on in Olbermann’s studio.
First as tragedy, then as farce doesn’t quite capture the history of Olbermann’s serial dismissals and poisonous exits. It’s farce over and over again. If Olbermann were to join Wayne and Garth as a co-host of Wayne’s World on the local public-access channel in Aurora, Ill., it wouldn’t be long before Olbermann denounced Wayne’s taste in heavy metal, complained about Garth’s inordinate airtime, and quit to start his own show with the public-access channel up the road in DeKalb.
Of course, as Lowry goes on to write, Olbermann signed a contract to be paid $50 million over five years, while broadcasting out of a cable facility not much more sophisticated than Wayne and Garth’s home studio:
- On Feb. 10, the lighting failed while Olbermann was on the air, and not for the first time. [Maybe Al was getting an early jump on Earth Hour — Ed.] Three weeks ago, Olbermann’s team sounded out of patience. “David, once again Current’s technical breakdowns have had a negative impact on Countdown,” Price wrote on March 8. “We have pleaded with you to focus on the studio and the constant technical failures that diminish the program and turn away the viewership.”
- And Olbermann apparently was getting cut off quite a bit: one email said that “while Keith was in mid-sentence, the show cut away from him to a promo for the War Room,” the new show hosted by former Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm. The situation was “wholly unacceptable … This diminishes the ratings of Current’s most successful show and proves to viewers that Current need not be taken seriously.”
As opposed to merely seeing the imprimaturs of Al Gore and Keith Olbermann. Keith though, is taking it all in his usual cheerful and modest self-effacing way, as he told David Letterman* tonight:
“It’s my fault that it didn’t succeed in the sense that I didn’t think the whole thing through. I didn’t say, `You know, if you buy a $10 million chandelier, you should have a house to put it in,'” Olbermann said, according to a CBS transcript.
The studio for his show, “Countdown,” was inadequate, Olbermann said, and he lost access to a car service because of an unpaid bill. He stopped short of directing strong criticism at former Vice President Al Gore, Current TV’s co-founder.
“He meant well. It didn’t go well,” Olbermann said. “He just wasn’t that involved in it and it was kind of difficult to get to him on these things.”
He quickly realized he’d made a mistake joining Current, Olbermann said, adding he stayed out of loyalty to viewers and his staff.
Which group outnumbered the other? As Lowry writes:
Olbermann must have thought that he was Edward R. Murrow — the legendary CBS newsman whose signature sign-off he aped — trapped in the body of a local newscaster in a very minor media market. He had a million viewers at MSNBC. At Current, he had 100,000 in the key 25-to-54 demographic last summer, before dwindling to 30,000, according to The Daily Beast. He probably could have reached as many people standing on a soapbox in Times Square on any given night, without having to sweat Current’s amateurish production values.
Or to put it another way, “If you play Olbermann’s career in reverse, it’s the story of a jobless man who rises from a lowly Internet channel to a prime-time talk show.”
Update: “Bombs Away!” The successor to the $50,000,000 chandelier isn’t exactly packing them, either: “Eliot Spitzer had just 47,000 viewers on Friday, hours after being hoisted into Olbermann’s time slot. How many ages 25 to 54? 10,000.” Breitbart News adds, “When Spitzer is fired, perhaps Current TV can hire Rosie O’Donnell, and finally hit that single-digit viewership mark they’re clearly seeking so desperately.”
* His fellow cranky lefty nihilistic NBC alumnus.