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After five months, Keith Olbermann’s Countdown returned to TV on Monday night, on a new network, Current TV.
The TV personality, who abruptly exited MSNBC in January, airs his new show at 8 p.m. and tweeted afterward that he plans to let it run a few minutes over every night into 9 p.m., the time slot occupied by MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, potentially putting a dent in her ratings.
Among his first-show guests were Michael Moore and Daily Kos blogger Markos Moulitsas, both contributors to Countdown.
So what did the critics think of his Current debut?
The Hollywood Reporter’s Tim Goodman wrote that not much has changed since Olbermann was at MSNBC — and that’s a good thing.
“Congrats to KO for essentially not changing one bit from his MSNBC days. Or days prior to that,” Goodman wrote. “He’s who he’s always been — fast talking, smart, opinionated, eager to take on the cult, as he says, of Republicanism. There was nothing in this first episode that stood out as startling, or different, or wildly revolutionary. And I think that’s what Current wanted — consistency. Do not reinvent Olbermann, just give him a platform to do what he does. And get out of his way.”
The New York Times’ Alessandra Stanley wrote: “Keith Olbermann returned to cable television on Monday mad as hell and pointedly madder than other self-described liberal anchors on his former channel, MSNBC.”
She also pointed out that nothing much has changed from his MSNBC show.
“Mr. Olbermann’s new show looks the same as the old one, even down to the features, music and title, Countdown With Keith Olbermann but the pulpit is markedly different from his old perch at MSNBC. Current TV, a small, earnest network co-founded by Al Gore in 2005, favors civic-minded programs and averages about 50,000 viewers during prime time. Mr. Olbermann was wedged between two documentaries, The OxyContin Express and Gateway to Heroin.”
Meanwhile, The Baltimore Sun’s David Zurawik enjoyed the program — for the most part.
“I have to give Keith Olbermann and Current TV their due: For 58 minutes Monday night, they delivered an impressive premiere on the new Countdown show,” he wrote. “Strong production values, reasonable discussions and no ugly over-the-top slanderous attacks on anyone. And then with only a few minutes left, Olbermann, who behaved like a professional broadcaster most of the night, teed it up for contributor Markos Moulitsas to tear into on-air talent and management at MSNBC, Olbermann’s last TV home.”
The Associated Press’ Frazier Moore noted that there were some changes from the old Countdown.
“Oddly missing from the first Current show, for better or worse: the formatted reverse ranking of topics that gave Countdown its name,” he wrote.
He also pointed out that Olbermann — who also is chief news officer at Current TV — seemed to throw his weight around by running the show long.
“And, as if to demonstrate he is in charge at Current in a way his old bosses at MSNBC wouldn’t let him be, he let Countdown run long, four minutes past the hour.”
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