To my surprise Keith Olbermann has taken his leave from MSNBC. I imagine many others who religiously watched him five nights a week felt shocked and dismayed at his sudden, and somewhat mysterious farewell, but I can’t stop thinking that it was a self- immolation of sorts by Olbermann. I was an avid watcher of Olbermann when he first came back to MSNBC eight years ago, but as time went on, his somewhat self-indulgent indignation began to rub me wrong, and I drifted away.
Olbermann has made no secret that he is a great admirer of the late CBS legend Edward R. Murrow, and tried to model himself after Murrow’s example. Even going so far as to copy Murrow’s nightly sign-off, “goodbye, and good luck”. It was obviously meant as a tribute, but as time went on, his aspiration to emulate Murrow was submerged as Olbermann ranted and used his “Special Comment” segments as a whipping post for his so-called enemies. As a student of Murrow, and his times, I have viewed his archived broadcasts many times, and I can safely say Murrow was no Keith Olbermann. Thank goodness for that!
Olbermann seemed to only be content if he was railing against everyone or everything he didn’t agree with, and no matter how much you like the guy, it got old very fast. No doubt “Countdown” was one of the best produced shows on MSNBC, and content-wise, was tremendous. But the bloom came off for me when Olbermann began regularly doing “Special Comment”. It was then that Olbermann seemed to begin believing he was the reincarnation of Murrow, and it just isn’t so. Not to say i don’t admire K.O. because I think he’s tremendously talented and more versatile than most talking heads on TV today. But to use nearly a full hour at times on one subject, with no objectivity? Not news to me, and a real turn-off.
The movie “A Face In The Crowd” comes to mind. I’ll skip the reviews of the plot, but Olbermann began calling Glenn Beck “Lonesome Rhodes”, who was the protaganist of said movie. At first I somewhat agreed, but as time went on, it became clear to me that the opposite was true. Olbermann became–for me–the embodiment of Rhodes. He clearly seemed to think he had far more power over his audience than was realistic. I mean let’s be honest, at “Countdown’s” highest point, ratings only showed about a quarter-million watching. Less than half of Fox News in the same time slot.
When Comcast got approval to take over NBC and MSNBC along with it, I think Olbermann saw the handwriting on the wall. When it was further announced that MSNBC would be under direct control of NBC News, K.O. decided that rather than be censored or silenced, he would go out in a blaze of glory. But due to contract restrictions, it may be more of a whisper. Olbermann will likely not be on national TV for a while, since large contracts like his routinely include non-compete clauses. It may be the public’s taste for him waxes, and wanes over that time.
Anyway, I am sorry he’s gone, but this may signal a move to the center for MSNBC–something I’m not sure Olbermann’s protege’ Rachel Maddow will like, so it could be she will soon be gone too.