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TV Column
Posted at 01:12 PM ET, 06/17/2011

Keith Olbermann: Ignore ratings ‘spin’ for new show


Keith Olbermann (Peter Kramer - AP)
If the 10 people in the control truck from which “Countdown with Keith Olbermann” is going to be directed can see the telecast when the new Current TV show launches Monday night, the network’s honchos will be satisfied with that debut rating, Keith Olbermann told The Reporters Who Cover Television in a phone conference call Friday.

They appeared to swallow it. Anyway, they didn’t challenge it. Maybe it’s very hot where the reporters were calling in from, and Olberman’s “Moses come down from the mountain with the tablets” manner of speaking to them had caused them to dreamily doze off.

Or, maybe they’re just a teensy bit intimidated by Olbermann who, before delivering that “These 10 guys go into a truck to watch a TV show debut” gag, had told one brave guy on the call who’d asked a ratings question that answering the question would require him to go off script, because he’d planned to address in full the ratings issue only at the end of the call — not in the middle — with some “special comments.” But, Olbermann said graciously, he’d give the reporter a “quick answer,” though he’d have to wait for the Special Comments at the end to get the real skinny.

At that point in the call, Olbermann had already rapped the knuckles of one reporter who asked about the advantages and disadvantages of not being connected to a news division or 24-hour cable news network such as Olbermann’s former employer MSNBC.

“Well, we are gearing towards eventually being a 24-hour news commentary, analysis and information network, so I really have to correct you on the last point,” Olbermann said, before explaining that it will be easier to be “independent,” because when now when he’s writing his show, he doesn’t have to worry about how what he says on air might affect his boss’s other entertainment networks, radio operations, billboards, theme parks – Orlando and Anaheim – and sports networks.

“I don’t have to worry about any of that at all, so there’s nothing on my shoulder other than getting the best possible news and commentary show on the air every day,” Olbermann said, adding that while writing practice shows in advance of Monday’s debut, sometimes he “stopped myself from stopping myself…Literally as long as it is defensible, in terms of honesty and factuality…I can say essentially what needs to be said.”

Example: For one practice show, Olbermann did a commentary in which he criticized President Obama for saying, when asked by America’s Sweetheart Ann Curry for his thoughts on Rep. Anthony Weiner’s situation (pre-resignation), Obama had responded “if it was me, I’d resign” from Congress.

Olbermann called it a “terrible” thing to say, in his practice commentary, because if Obama ever finds himself in some controversial situation, that quote could “come back to haunt him.”

And after delivering his “So, 10 guys go into this truck to see a TV show” gag, Olbermann took to task another reporter who wondered whether his new show “will also include feuding with [Fox News Channel’s] Bill O’Reilly.”

“I disagree with your use of the term ‘feuding’,” Olbermann said. He said he mentioned O’Reilly in the earlier iteration of “Countdown,” on MSNBC, when O’Reilly had said something on his own FNC show that was so “outlandishly inaccurate” it merited analysis on “Countdown.”

And, Olbermann noted, O’Reilly twice “tried to use my name on the air, and only once did he succeed in pronouncing it correctly.”

KAPOW!

And yet, Olbermann insisted, he probably won’t have too much to say about O’Reilly on his Current TV program, because, “Bill has lost a little bit of his fastball.”

KERBLAM!

“Did you ever get the feeling some people have just stopped trying?” he asked, rhetorically.

THWAP!

“He just doesn’t carry that much water for them,” any more, Olbermann added.

BLAM!

So, getting back to the 10 guys in a truck gag: Any spinning of ratings on the first night of “Countdown with Keith Olbermann” on Current TV, including spinning perpetrated by Current TV itself, “strictly [horseradish],” Olbermann told TRWCT at the end of the conference call, according to script.

“You’re going to hear a lot from…certain former employers of mine about ratings…a lot of this stuff is going to start to be pushed out over the weekend,” Olbermann said as his Special Comments got underway.

“If I were my former employers I wouldn’t do that,” he said. .

“I just want to caution you, there was a period of time in 2003 when, at an established 24-hour-a-day, all-news network in its seventh year of operation, we were, at ‘Countdown,’ at a total audience of about 200,000 [viewers]. That was about six months into the show.

“And, at various other stages, well into the show – four or five years – the butt of the jokes in the industry -- and in many of your columns in fact -- were the ratings of that network,” he said, warming to his subject.

“The ratings Current TV execs are interested in, Olbermann insisted, are for the year 2013, “when the election settles down.”

“We’re in this for the long haul, we’re in this to build a 24-hour operation.

In addition to taking questions, Olbermann announced more contributors who will join him on “Countdown with Keith Olbermann.”

Joining the already announced names such as filmmakers Michael Moore and Ken Burns, the new contributors include:

* Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone reporter

* John Dean, Richard Nixon’s White House counsel

* Heather McGhee, Director of the Washington office of Demos (a non-partisan policy center)

* Jonathan Turley, George Washington University law school professor

* Maysoon Zayid, comedian and activist

* Kate Sheppard, Mother Jones reporter

* Jeremy Schahill, author

* Donald Sutherland, yummy actor

* Derrick Pitts, astronomer (who, like Burns, will talk about non-political subjects, Olbermann noted)

In addition to the newest roster, Olbermann added that David Shuster (Olbermann’s former MSNBC colleague) will serve as primary guest host on the show.

By and  |  01:12 PM ET, 06/17/2011

 
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