Mr. wOw Contemplates the Disappearance of Keith Olbermann

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What will MSNBC look like after the departure of its most famous star?

Last Friday night, in his typical drama queen fashion, Keith Olbermann, MSNBC’s top liberal shrieking head, suddenly announced that he was leaving his “Countdown” desk — immediately. This would be his final show. K.O.’s  little bombshell came about ten minutes before the show ended.

Mr. wOw was momentarily stunned — but not at all surprised and not terribly sorry to see Olbermann off the MSNBC airwaves. Over the years Keith has morphed into a ranting, ridiculously overwrought Johnny One Note. Was he on the right side? From my point of view, yes, mostly. Did he hurt the cause by leaping before he looked, by never having a dissenting voice on his show, by playing to the balcony (in Tibet!) with his excruciating “Special Comments?” I think so. His one unqualified good deed was to mentor Rachel Maddow and bring her into the MSNBC lineup with her own hour of liberal talk. Though Maddow has her flaws — too cutesy for her own good, sometimes — she at least debated the opposing side (when any of them could man up enough to face the intelligent Dr.Maddow.) And despite a bit too much coverage of gay marriage and DADT (even for the very gay Mr. wOw) hers was the hour I most anticipated.

In all honestly, nobody in the know is surprised by Olbermann’s ouster. He is prickly, emotional diva, much like his arch-enemy, Fox News emperor Bill O’Reilly. But Olbermann seemed to irk his employers more than O’Reilly does — and this was even before the MSNBC was taken over by Phil Griffin and Comcast. The handwriting was on the wall. Even O’Reilly — without mentioning Olbermann’s name, which he was loathe to do — predicted with grim pleasure that “things are gonna change over there.” Bill wasn’t talking about the office decor. (Olbermann was suspended about two months ago, because he violated some arcane NBC policy by contributing to several Democratic campaigns. He was pissed off and didn’t hide it. That was the beginning of the end.) One would not have to stretch one’s imagination to conclude that the past three days have been among the happiest in Bill O’ Reilly’s entire life.

Ratings are a factor, natch. Even though Olbermann’s “Countdown” was the tottering network’s most successful show, it still badly trailed its competition on Fox. One senses also that Mr. Griffin and Comcast, if not conservative, are at least cognizant of where the winds of cash blow in from: a conservative viewership. They want to Fox it up on MSNBC. And if that means stripping the network of its liberal leanings, so be it. (The myth of the vast influence of “liberal media” is exactly that: a myth. Just as people say the Christian religion is always in jeopardy — yeah, while new mega-churches are built and packed to the rafters every year.)

So now Keith is gone, taking quite a few millions with him. We are left with Maddow, the somewhat arch Lawrence O’Donnell, the perpetually red-faced, jabbering Chris Matthews and Ed Shultz, who comes off like a not terribly bright truckdriver. (This is no slur to truckdrivers. Mr. wOw knew a few who were downright erudite!) MSNBC itself continues to freefall, unable to sustain 24-hour information. Are we doomed to those endless crime marathons, even when the rest of the world — and the other cable stations — are focused on news? Well, at least some facsimile of news.

I don’t care much what happens to Keith. He’ll be fine. He’s rich in pocket and ego. He’ll surface someplace else. He’ll never understand he was his own worst enemy.

I worry more about Maddow. I fear she is Comcast’s next victim. And in 2012, by the time we are deep into the election frenzy, what will MSNBC look like, sound like? Will it still be the “liberal” network, the loud counterpoint to the screaming “fair and balanced” Fox News? Or will it be neutered — or even worse, will it also be “fair and balanced?”

I see the darkness on the horizon.

32 comments so far.

  1. avatar Chip Griswold says:

    Mr. Wow,

    I don’t think O’Reilly is nearly as blantantly nasty as Obermann is; not that a lesser amount of nasty is good.  I sincerely thought Obermann was in a class of his own.  His recent “tweets” were a no class sign of his inability to have a discussion with anyone who didn’t agree with him: he immediately perceives them as being stupid.

    The irony of Obermann’s tendency to be nasty, is it was totally unnecessary.  Obermann, even by the more conservative’s perspective, is very bright, very articulate; he didn’t need to behave the way he did.  Obermann at times was more adept at making a point than perhaps any other pundit on the air, my opinion.  And I almost never agreed with the guy.  I did, however, respect his intellect.  And there in lies what I saw as the problem with Obermann – he never respected anyone, intellectually or otherwise, who disagreed with him.  They had to be stupid!  And that’s sad. 

    • avatar Mr. Wow says:

      Dear Chip…you are so correct re KO.  However, Mr, O’ Reilly condescends to his own audience, “the folks” as he calls them.   And his opinion of the weak liberals he invites on to defend their positions is obvious–utter contempt.  (And I often wonder how the Fox women who appear  on his show to flatter and support his ego, can tolerate his misogyny.)

      I have little admiration for either man.

      • avatar Bonnie O says:

        Dear Mr. Wow -   Okay, here we go again.  Another disagreement.  The “liberals” who appear regularly on The O’Reilly show are Juan Williams, of noted fame not only for authoring “Eyes on the Prize” but being summarily fired by an NPR executive, who in turn was herself recently (and IMO justly) fired, and by some guy named Holmes.  However, as special guests to represent the Left point of view, some of the guests include Geraldine Ferraro, Sally Quinn and Geraldo Rivera.

        Many on the Left will not appear on The O’Reilly program …. for reasons of their own but most of us believe it is because there is little ”spin” allowed on the show.  Of course, Bill O’Reilly hogs the program but it is his show.  The Left point of view is clearly heard.

        By the way, I think Hillary Clinton’s best interview during the 2008 campaign was her interview by Bill O’Reilly.

        You do raise a significant point with regard to the number of ladies who appear with O’Reilly.  They are usually blond, very bright and quick whitted.  However, I disagree that O’Reilly is a misogynist.  Why are there not more men on the program?   Ratings, perhaps?

      • avatar Mr. Wow says:

        Dear Bonnie…often, Bill has an “unknown” lib booked to tackle a certain subject.  They are invariably idiots.   As for Juan Williams…he was unfairly fired by NPR–a disgraceful episode– but he is a craven creature, nevertheless. 
        Those on FOX who appear with O’Reilly are there for one reason—to kiss his ass and reinforce his sense of self-importance.  But, as you say…his show!
        What does it matter?  Fox beats the competition.  Conservatives know how to fight and defend their positions.  Libs don’t. 

      • avatar Chip Griswold says:

        Mr. Wow,

        “And I often wonder how the Fox women who appear  on his show to flatter and support his ego, can tolerate his misogyny.”

        Now you are scaring me!  We, my wife and I, were flipping between Fox, MSNBC, and CNN – and,  I said nearly the same thing about the women and O’Reilly.  I even commented that it is kind of silly and a few other things.  I often have a very difficult time concentrating on the substance when the narrator behaves badly.  It just turns me off.  Guess no idealogy has cornered the market on stupid behavior.

        Chip

  2. avatar Maggie W says:

    Like O’Reilly , Keith is a legend in his own mind, so it comes as no surprise when he walked…. or was made to walk. The best part of his show was “ The Worst Person in the World.” Those little gems were entertaining.
    The problem I have with Keith and Rachel is their shows are so predictable. They rerun the same guests over and over, and those guests rarely have anything new or illustrative to bring to the table. ( Is Howard Fineman also looking for a gig now?) Ditto for Lawrence O’Donnell who , as of late, loses his temper much too easily and also has also developed Chris Matthews’ annoying habit of interrupting the guests and shrieking. 
    Like him or hate him, Bill Maher has both Republican and Democratic guests and they are usually happy to return to his show along with a wide variety of authors, sports figures, foreign correspondents, activists , etc.   Part of Bill’s appeal is gleaned from his earlier days at Comedy Central and doesn’t emit that “ you’re either with me or against me” vibe that the MSNBC crew has. They will have a field day tonight after the SOTU. I’m really looking forward to seeing what Rep. Ryan brings to the table. God… I hope it’s not his weary little Road Map for America again. Sheesh!

    • avatar Mr. Wow says:

      Dear Maggie.. Difference is, O’Reilly can learned to control himself.  I doubt he is beloved among the Fox staff (probably quite the opposite) but he’s not the messy diva that KO is.

      • avatar Mr. Wow says:

        …has learned to control himself…

        I miss the spell and grammar check.  That’s because I missed high school.

  3. avatar angelarocks49 says:

    I got a kick out of watching Keith’s off-the-wall show and hope he surfaces somewhere else on cable – maybe he can develop a show akin to Bill Maher’s – I know I’d check it out.  He’s an intelligent guy and so what if he preaches to the choir.

    • avatar Mr. Wow says:

      Dear Anelgarocks49…Keith will be just fine.  And yes, I see him in the Bill Maher mode.   Maybe once a week he’ll be a bit more palatable, even for those (like me) who tend to agree with him,

  4. avatar Tee Zee says:

    Good night and good luck Mr. Olbermann.  I will miss your intelligence and wit and your giving voice to the anger so many of us felt.  Thank you for standing up for what was right, regardless of the consequences. What I will miss the most is your backing up your positions with an overwhelming amount of facts that led me to the internet to discover just what is on the line.  Who now will be shining the light on matters ensuring we have the information we need to be informed citizens?

    • avatar Mr. Wow says:

      Dear Tee Zee…let’s say a prayer for MIss Maddow.  And us.

    • avatar angelarocks49 says:

      Rachel Maddow is very well informed and seems to thoroughly research
      the topics she covers.  Furthermore, she oftens scoops other shows
      with, as she herself says, “stories that nobody else is talking about”.
      Long live Rachel Maddow !

  5. avatar Baby Snooks says:

    What I find fascinating about the “discussion” about Keith Olbermann is that no one seems to have paid attention to the fact that after the fact, so to speak, he wasn’t fired.  He sort of just left. After having demanded more money. So much for altruism. On the left, the right, or even somewhere in between, the bottom line is the bottom line for the “commentators” and it’s all about the money, honey.  Nothing more. They are, in the end, merely entertainers. Very well-paid entertainers I might add. 

    • avatar Mr. Wow says:

      Dear Baby…you might be up on news I’m not up on, but…so far I have heard nothing re KO and $.  He was ousted beacuse he was simply too much trouble and way too liberal for what Comcast has in mind for the new MSNBC.

      But you are correct in recognizing that they are all merely entertainers.

      • avatar Baby Snooks says:

        It was in various news reports over the weekend. I guess time will tell. If he walked, he won’t work for two years. And Comcast will simply pay him in order to make sure he doesn’t.  Including not working for them. Not on camera anyway. He will be “out of sight, out of mind.”  So much for his ego.  To paraphrase a former friend who didn’t follow her own advice with me, never let your anger, or your ego, inconvenience you. 

        Actually they’re not really entertainers. Unless you enjoy screeching banshees. Which apparently some do. Mostly on the right. But some on the left.  And apparently some in the middle as well.

        I suppose as Rome burned there were those who found it profitable to “comment” on the fire. And add some gasoline to it. 

    • avatar Tee Zee says:

      I disagree that it’s about the money with Keith, I was listening to Dan Patrick on Monday, who’s comment was his impression is Keith gets bored and needed to move on.
      I also read on another site that a month ago he changed agents with the intention of breaking his existing contract.  So IMO it sounds like it was a career move not a money grab.

      • avatar Baby Snooks says:

        I missed this before. You were listening to WHO?  Please don’t tell me you were listening to the Dan Patrick in Texas.  Tell me it was a different Dan Patrick somewhere else. 

  6. avatar Count Snarkula says:

    Not to be rude, but I think Keith Olbermann began to believe his publicity and as a result, well, became a gasbag.

  7. avatar Belinda Joy says:

    I was shocked to hear Keith announce he was leaving, shocked and stunned. Like you Mr. Wow, I too watch a bit of all the stations, just enough to get a good sense of what is being said. And for the longest time I chastised Fox for being so far to the right they’ve lost all perspective.
     
    Yet MSNBC started out (IMO) very much speaking from the middle, yet now they have become the very entity they rail against. They are becoming a mirror image of Fox with the only exception being their views are left wing instead of rabid right. And Keith has become super angry.
     
    Yet I will say this, I think his personal life has much to do with the level of  political anger he is espousing as of late. The death of both parents, gossip about his personal life, the network disagreeing with his views….it adds up. And what better distraction than work. What better crutch than work, using your microphone to blast all those that you disagree with. I don’t want to grieve over the loss of my mom and now dad, better I should go on a tirade about the Tea Party!
     
    He started putting on weight, which we all knows is never as simple as “I eat too much” (there is a reason people eat too much) – so he was/is clearly out of control and he did need to go.
     
    I like moderates. I prefer people who can see and speak from both sides. I don’t like Fox because they are too far to the right and MSNBC is too far to the left. Maybe this respite will give Keith a chance to get back in touch with the moderate he once was. I think he has lost perspective.

  8. avatar Mr. Wow says:

    Dear Belinda…right on all counts!  I think a lot of his emotionalism had to do with his private life–even aside from the unforntuate passing of both parents in a short space of time.

    CNN used to be the actual “fair and balanced” network, but they don’t know what they hell they are doing now, or what they stand for.  Like MSNBC, they are terrified of Fox, and can’t get a grip. 
    I too hope that Keith takes a much-needed rest and pops up someplace else with a better way of expressing his perspective. He is intelligent and he is on the side of the angels.  (Well, the angels I believe in, anyway.)  But like many liberals, he doesn’t know how to do that voodooo that conservatives do so well.  

  9. avatar Kathy Ackerman says:

    I have blown hot and cold when it comes to Olbermann.  When he’s on target and on point, he is absolutely matchless.  But a lot of times, I end up wincing and wondering where I can find a pin to let some hot air out of his ballooning head.
    Belinda makes a very good point that Keith’s balance went awry when he lost both his parents so close together.  He was clearly working out some demons.  But I doubt that he will be able to get his head back together again soon, based on what I’m seeing on Twitter.  (Never mind his bitterness about his past employers.)
    He’s clearly angry and he’s digging in.  It may be a while before he is able to get some perspective.
    But we need to take a deep breath and not go off the deep end about Maddow and the rest of the MSNBC lineup.  I doubt that she’s in trouble because Comcast is her new boss.  GE was no bastion of liberality, and they tolerated Keith for a very long time.  Keith’s departure was not a harbinger of things to come, but the divorce between two fractious parties.
    Liberals tend to forget that corporations really pay more attention to their bottom line than they care about ideology.  MSNBC was on the verge of failing until Keith started pulling them left.  Now, it’s got some bright spots (Morning Joe is regularly beating the competition and Keith was making steady gains and eroding O’Reilly’s audience). I don’t think Comcast really cared about political ideology.  They care about profits.  Keith was profitable.  Rachel is profitable.  We’ll see what happens with the new lineup.  But being afraid of Comcast forcing a right-ward shift is unrealistic.

  10. avatar Harriet Shoebridge says:

    An old expression is ‘too well protected’, that is, life’s ‘stars’ and their hangers-on, their handlers, as it were, the self serving who benefit from membership in the supporting cast.  And then, because ego is a mighty powerful thing, the star comes to actually believe the handlers, expectation sets in, replaces a sense of responsiblity, and the individual begins to exhibit signs of ‘precious’ – ness.  Happens in private life, in public life.  Nothing new under the sun, Mr.Wow … Mr.Olbermann simply suffering from a case of ‘precious’ …

  11. avatar Donna H says:

    I loved Keith Olbermann & one of the plusses of retiring was getting to watch him more often (I worked a 5 pm to 5 am shift & got to watch ‘Countdown’ only sporadically).
    I, too, was stunned when he left. I agree with Tee Zee about Keith backing up what he said with facts.  When I began watching him, I would Google what he was talking about just to find out that he did indeed know what he was talking about.
    Rachel Maddow & Chris Matthews do have opposing voices on their shows.  Pat Buchanan has appeared frequently on “Hardball” & recently Chris had members of four Tea Party groups to explain their platforms.  Last week, Rachel had recently-deposed RNC chair Michael Steele on her show.
     
    I’ve read online that Olbermann has been negotiating his ‘walk-out’ since last April.  Russel Simmons has already offered Keith Olbermann work on a project he is working on (or maybe already has running, once I surfed away from that story, the name of Simmon’s project disappeared immediately from my aging brain).
    While watching SOTU last night, I had Moses Laptopowitz with me so I could follow the tweets of Keith (& others).
    When Keith left MSNBC, I almost left, too.  I decided to stay with Chris, Rachel, & Ed because there is no other progressive voice on TV. I do watch other news channels, but CNN tries too hard to become “all things for all people”, & I don’t like what I see as the “Think exactly the way I tell you to or you are unAmerican, stupid, & evil” mindset of the anchors on FOX.  Homestly, I think the “They don’t agree with me so off with their heads!” feeling I get from the” folks” at Fox is getting stale trite, & almost kitschy. But that’s my two shekels of opinion.

  12. avatar Mr. Wow says:

    Last night, Rachel Maddow spent an inordinate amount of time dissing CNN for that network’s choice to air Michele Bachmann’s airhead response to the president’s SOTU speech.  Talk about a waste of time.  And I don’t mean CNN or Bachmann.  Why bother?  Why go there? Just concentrate on Obama’s speech.  Let others do what they feel appropriate.  And I include Fox News in that sentiment. 

    To MSNBC and Ms. Maddow–concentrate on your messy own house. Leave CNN to heaven. 

    • avatar alice ruth says:

      I didn’t understand why Rachel Maddow took CNN to task for airing the Bachmann response to the SOTU. I watched Bachmann, and my opinion of her self serving political posturing was only reinforced. I agree that  CNN seemed to attach as much importance to Ms. Bachmann’s response as it did to the “official” Republican response. What’s the downside for progressives when the whole thing made Republicans appear to be split by the tea party element of the party?
      What’s next, the Libertarian response to the SOTU address…the Birthers response to the SOTU address…the NRA’s response to the SOTU address…the Dittoheads’ response to the SOTU…the Palinites’ response to the SOTU? No doubt there are a lot of Republican voices out there who would love equal time for an “official” response.

  13. avatar Rho says:

    I miss his show.  I used to watch him most nights.  I hope he will return on TV somewhere, even if it is sports, where he began.

  14. avatar Donna H says:

    Huffington Post reports that Ed Schultz is battling with the head honchos at MSNBC as well.  He’s had to drop his “Psycho Talk” segment.