Keith Olbermann is one angry man. On the debut of his new “Countdown” show on Current TV on Monday, Olbermann went after all Republicans, Fox News Channel, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and, by proxy, his former employers at MSNBC.
His “proxy” was Markos Moulitsas, founder of the Daily Kos political Web site, who accused MSNBC of somehow barring Moulitsas from appearing on any of its shows after he got in some kind of Twitter battle with Joe Scarborough, MSNBC’s morning-show host.
Moulitsas shared this yarn – in which he accused Scarborough of controlling guest bookings on other MSNBC shows – after Keith asked him why he hadn’t been seen on any TV talk shows in the last 13 months.
Of course, most of this new “Countdown” was a lot like the old “Countdown.” In fact, ever since Keith and Current announced the new “Countdown,” we’ve wondered how Keith was able to take his old show’s title and format along with him when he left MSNBC. The new one even has the same music as the old one.
Certainly, for Olbermann fans – of which there are many – the new “Countdown with Keith Olbermann” must have been a welcome sight, since their hero has been off the air since January. It must have seemed like he never left as he set about bashing his usual targets.
Among other statements, he referred to the GOP as “the Republican cult,” called Ronald Reagan “a lousy president” who “helped keep Qaddafi in power,” and said of conservatives, in announcing an upcoming story: “Conservatives’ souls for sale! I know – you’re shocked, not that they’d sell them, that they have them!”
That last story had to do with right-leaning radio talk-show hosts – Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and Mark Levin – accepting payments from conservative groups in return for giving them prominent mentions on their shows. And Olbermann referred to Beck as “Lonesome Rhodes” Beck, a reference to the cynical, demagogic character Andy Griffith played in the 1957 movie, “A Face in the Crowd,” one of the best movies ever produced about television. In the movie, Rhodes was an uneducated, unscrupulous, singing bumpkin from Arkansas who rose to become TV’s most popular entertainer.
And of course, Olbermann called Fox News “Fix News” and accused the news channel of selectively editing this past Sunday’s interview with Jon Stewart on “Fox News Sunday.” And he did a “Worst Person in the World” segment – the designee was a woman on a suburban commuter train who was caught on videotape berating a conductor.
Besides Moulitsas, Keith’s inaugural guests were Michael Moore, John Dean and Ken Vogel, a reporter for Politico.com who apparently broke the right-wing radio “payola” story. To our ears, Keith seemed rusty after being off the air for five months. When he opened the show, he spoke unusually quickly, as if he felt he would run out of time unless he rushed through his intro copy.
Later, when he’d settled down a bit after interviewing Michael Moore, Olbermann launched into a brief speech about the new show. “This is to be a newscast of contextualization,” he said a tad pompously, “that is to be presented with the viewpoint that the weakest citizen of this country is more important than the strongest corporation, that the nation is losing its independence through the malfeasance of one political party and the timidity of another.”
The big question is: Can Keith Olbermann bring enough viewers to save this ratings-starved network? That remains to be seen, but it’s almost a certainty that he’ll at least improve on Current’s paltry average now – a reported 30,000 viewers during prime-time hours – for the simple reason that Olbermann has 10 times that number of followers on Twitter and only a fraction of them have to tune in to his show for Current’s ratings to improve.
The new “Countdown with Keith Olbermann” airs weeknights at 8/7c on Current and repeats at 11/10c, 2 a.m./1c and other times during the day.