Keith Olbermann: 'Countdown' on Current Will Be 'Improved' Version of MSNBC Show
"It will be improved by virtue of reverse engineering and the elimination of a lot of bureaucracy," says Olbermann.
Almost five months to the day when he signed off of MSNBC, left-leaning firebrand Keith Olbermann returns with a new, and “improved” version of Countdown with Keith Olbermann.
“It will be largely what I did at MSNBC,” Olbermann told The Hollywood Reporter.
“We’re essentially reverse engineering the show. We know what the show is supposed to look like. We know what we need. So we disassemble it, figure out how it works, put it back together. It will be improved, I hope, by virtue of reverse engineering and the elimination of a lot of bureaucracy.”
Olbermann surprised viewers (and his MSNBC staff) when he announced on Jan. 21 that he was leaving MSNBC. The split came after numerous clashes with management in recent years. At Current, the network co-founded nearly six years ago by Al Gore and Joel Hyatt, Olbermann is chief news officer and fourth on the corporate ladder behind Gore, Hyatt and CEO Mark Rosenthal.
Countdown will air in the same 8 p.m. time slot it occupied on MSNBC, putting Olbermann up against The Last Word With Lawrence O’Donnell, which is down only slightly among news’ target demographic of 25-54 year olds compared to the same period last year when Countdown was on.
His new show will look much like his old show; it will have a “worst persons” segment. He has posted “worst persons” videos online since he left MSNBC; Glenn Beck has been among those earning that dubiously intended honor.
There will be four or five major stories per night and several secondary stories. Olbermann will mine familiar territory including the budget battles sweeping the nation.
“If it’s [a story] about budget cuts it will be: ‘Stories for the I’m-not-going-to-pay-a lot-for-this-muffler crowd,’” explained Olbermann, referring to the old Meineke commercial.
And he’ll have plenty of recognizable faces in the line-up including Michael Moore and Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas, who are scheduled for tonight's premiere. Former MSNBC colleague David Shuster is Olbermann's primary substitute anchor and will also contribute on segments.
And it is from the ranks of these contributors that Olbermann could find his next protégé -- or at least a host for a 9 p.m. hour.
Moulitsas will be a regular presence on the show; Current has set up an IP-based studio in his Berkeley office. Asked if he has aspirations to host his own show, Moulitsas said: “Oh God, no! I’m a writer.”
Rolling Stone writer Matt Taibbi also has been tapped as a Countdown contributor. It’s unclear how often he’ll appear, though like Moulitsas, Taibbi’s Countdown agreement is exclusive to cable at 8 p.m., said Olbermann.
“Matt may be totally satisfied with coming in and doing four minutes on a guest segment,” said Olbermann. “But so was Rachel [Maddow] four or five years ago.”
The first time Maddow appeared on his MSNBC program, recalled Olbermann: “She walked in and she had 30 pages of hand-written notes. I said to her, ‘You’re better prepared for this segment than I am. And I’m the host.’”
A few years later, Maddow launched her own successful program on MSNBC. And O'Donnell was a frequent substitute host on Countdown before getting his own show last year.
“I’m not suggesting I have some sort of Midas touch,” said Olbermann. “But the environment provides a very large Petri dish for other potential hosts and shows. It did in the past. And we have a lot of room for new shows.”