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In honor of Keith Olbermann proclaiming today that he will announce tomorrow — via conference call at 11 a.m. EST — his next adventure, I thought I’d revisit this blog I posted the night Olbermann told the world on the air that he was leaving MSNBC. But this time, I’m going to add five more possibilities — because what’s an update without fresh material.
The five new possibilities of what Olbermann will announce:
1. He’s going to be involved in a massive new online venture that involves either politics or sports. Outside of porn, there are two entities people might actually pay to access through a wall on the interwebs — and that’s politics and sports. Olbermann knows a lot about both and if he’s connected with other partners, as the invitation to the conference call suggests, that could mean other high profile people will be joining him or said partners are the kind of financial backing that would have to be in place to make such a venture work.
2. He’s going to run for office – perhaps Sen. Joe Lieberman’s seat in Connecticut. Would this surprise you? He’d probably win it, too. Do you want to be in a debate with him? No, actually, you don’t. He’d crush you like a grape. And if he did run, both Fox and MSNBC would have to deal with him — just when they thought their respective headaches were all better, too.
3. He’s going back to his radio roots. Not on satellite radio, either. Hey, is Air America still up and running? No? Well, maybe KO is going to be the anchor on something similar to that (plus he’d have already signed on a cadre of like-minded people — hopefully big names. Is there anything in former Air America persona Rachel Maddow‘s contract with MSNBC to keep her off the radio?) Maybe Olbermann is sick of politics and wants to talk sports again on ESPN radio?
4. He’s going to be a host on The X Factor with Simon Cowell. What, you think that’s crazy? Does he know anything about music? He’s a polymath, so maybe. But then again, does Paula Abdul really know anything about music? Did Piers Morgan, when he was on The X Factor in England? Who’s more Piers Morganian than Keith Olbermann? Music isn’t bought by music industry insiders. It’s
5. He’s writing a book/making a documentary. About everybody. Fox, MSNBC, ESPN, etc. etc. He’s already written books. He’s comfortable in front of a camera. He knows how to do this thing in his sleep, people. But this time, it’s going to be touted as a tell-all or shocking (funny?) look at big media and politics. Whatever that means.
What follows is the original blog, posted the night of Olbermann’s announcement that he was leaving Countdown:
The abrupt departure of Keith Olbermann from MSNBC on Friday night will no doubt get sorted out in time. Pushed or quit? Yet more squabbling with management (which he tends to win)? Or perhaps a memo from Comcast? Olbermann is under contract – or was – so getting rid of him didn’t come cheap. We can only hope whatever deal the two sides made did not include a gag order on Olbermann about said deal.
This is a man with things to say. And there are a lot of ears that want to hear those things. Even if (particularly if?) it has to do with this strange cutting of ties that has left – do not kid yourself on this point – MSNBC more irrelevant than ever before in its history.
But until that sorting out happens, here are 10 career path decisions that Olbermann should consider:
Go to Fox News: Yes, it sounds insane (for both sides). But think about it. Every other lightweight “liberal” that Fox tries to toss on the air to make things “fair and balanced” has no real gravitas. Olbermann? When it comes to television, he is the voice of the left. There’s your balance (screw fair – nobody with a brain that hasn’t been pickled by Kool-Aid believes that nonsense). Can you image what kind of ratings Death Star would be created if he joined Fox News? It would turn MSNBC to dust and leave CNN so much further behind in the ratings that it would be battling BET for numbers. It would also allow Roger Ailes to lord it over every liberal in this country and he might swallow whatever pride he has about Olbermann to have that kind of club at his disposal.
And – wait for it – it would be the most audacious reach across the aisle in television history. The left would have to actually tune their television to Fox News to find Olbermann. And the right would have to suffer through all those promos for his show – like sizzle reel Kryptonite – before settling in on Bill O’Reilly. A nation heals.
And, seriously, who wouldn’t want to watch O’Reilly and Olbermann toss to each other every night? It would be a sneer and snark fest for the ages.
Go back to ESPN: There’s a reason that Comedy Central has a show from the Onion called SportsDome. The material for mocking national sports highlight shows like SportsCenter on ESPN is limitless. Why? Because after the All-Star duo of Olbermann and Dan Patrick split up, every wannabe famous sports anchor that has ever gone through ESPN has tried to mimic the pair’s hipness to spectacularly laughable effect.
ESPN has, in fact, become such a parody of itself (outside of a handful of anchors), that just watching some of these people is instantly funny for all the wrong reasons. How can SportsDome mock them when they appear to be doing a skit of themselves?
Olbermann’s return to ESPN would add some welcome gravitas. He (and Patrick) coined 98 percent of the best catch-phrases in ESPN history and no doubt Olbermann has more. Besides, the man can talk all sports – particularly baseball. And something tells me that as passionate as he is about politics, a toll has been taken on his life. Getting back to sports might give him some peace.
PBS, now’s your chance: If I’m Paula Kerger, president and CEO of PBS, I’m on the phone as fast as humanly possible, trying to configure a role for Olbermann. No, they can’t afford him – but maybe the right deal won’t be about money. Sure, the system then loses all of its federal funding, but guess what? That horrible albatross is finally off your back and the loyal legions of Olbermann fans might actually send you some money during pledge. I love PBS, but it’s deadly dull and as antiquated an idea as, well, the politics of Upstairs/Downstairs. Or, hell, I, Claudius. A radical remaking of the system is at hand. This will never, ever happen. But there are no bad ideas in a brainstorm. Or a brain fire.
Go to England: Are you kidding? This is gold. This is genius. (Do you need an executive producer?) The Brits sent us Piers Morgan. He’s cocky and opinionated and a lot of people across the pond hate him. Hello? Olbermann goes to England and does what is essentially a nightly “Letter From America.” Our cousins think we’re insane anyway. We send them someone who will, for a half hour (hour?!) each night, put a spotlight on Americans. Our politics, our people, our eating habits — whatever. Talk about a welcoming crowd. The Brits would eat it up. Olbermann would essentially tear America a new one each night and you can’t for a second think that wouldn’t be a hit in the UK. Olbermann fancies himself a bit of an outsider. In England, he’d be the Yank of Yelling. OK, maybe no yelling, but someone who could seriously take the piss out of the United States, to use a term us Anglophiles have heard a time or two.
Go to OWN: Oprah can afford you. OWN doesn’t even know how much air time it still has left to fill. Maybe Olbermann can be the catalyst for Oprah to use her God-like powers to create a real national debate. Think about it: She opens the vault to lure in big names from the right, the left, independents, young people, minorities, etc. One night a week, OWN fills the air with passionate, intelligent people talking about one of the most divisive topics in this country: politics. Oprah makes everybody behave – the be your best person mantra. Ratings be damned. She says she’s the messenger for the message, well, prove it. Use your talent, connections and sway to get people (other than Gayle, OK?) to make political discourse something more than a shouting match of close-minded, hateful people.
Go to Comedy Central: Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Olbermann. Surely the czars of Comedy Central must know that no one in the real world thinks of them as anything but lefties. Come on. Have you ever, in your life, heard a funny Republican comedian? (And no, Dennis Miller doesn’t count – he was left before he was right.) Everybody knows that Comedy Central is not Fox News. It’s faux news. And bad old movies. And some good new stuff – but the point is, don’t hide from your true self. Let Olbermann have a nightly half hour to rant his ass off.
Go to HBO or Showtime: Plenty of shelf space in the late night hours. He can say whatever he wants and nobody at MSNBC or Comcast has to suspend him and write a memo about how they are taking their cash cow off the air for a day to appease the masses. On pay cable, they do not care.
Become the Commissioner of Major League Baseball: The man knows America’s pastime. And he’d shake up some of the idiocy. What, he’s going to be worse than Bud Selig?
Create your own cable channel geared to the left: This is what Olbermann did for MSNBC. He made them relevant because he played the Fox News game. He became the go-to voice of the left. The trouble is, outside of Rachel Maddow, who is there to help him? And if Air America failed, how will Air Olbermann do? Nobody knows if this would work, but it would almost assure the end of MSNBC. And Olbermann was essential in landing Maddow. Maybe he can get her to jump. Maybe he can find more like her out there – smart lefties with an opinion who don’t, in the course of stating their points, automatically seem like a parody of themselves. Of course, any failure analysis report would probably tell you that the right likes to be riled up and to rally around their own. The left? Hell, they’re bailing on President Obama. You can’t get those people to agree on anything.
Retire: This is probably more far-fetched than the PBS idea. Olbermann is restless. He’s up until all hours of the night. He likes to work. He likes to be involved. He wants to be in the mix. Does he need the money or the agitation? No. But he’s got an ego that needs to be fed. I’m not sure he’s going to be happy going to baseball games and writing his blog and penning the occasional Op-Ed piece. There’s only so much game planning one person can do in preparation for another season of fantasy baseball. But maybe an extended break to reflect? That could happen. We’ll have to wait and see.
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