Sunday, January 23, 2011

Goodbye Keith, For Now

With Dan Patrick on ESPN's "Sportscenter"

With Rachel. Both hers, and Lawrence O'Donnell's
Show began on "Countdown"

I watch the MSNBC flagship show "Countdown," with Keith Olbermann on a regular basis. It comes on at 5:00PM my time and I look forward to it everyday. Keith points out the major stories of interest that interest the progressive movement, reports them, then ridicules the Republican maniacs responsible for whatever nonsense they happen to be spewing or perpetrating that day. He does it brilliantly, and with a certain amount of humor and vehemence that reminds me of myself. And he's not afraid to tell it like it is.
So he's kind of a hero of mine. Certainly a better writer. I am not jealous however. We need his eloquence and wit.
He will be celebrating his 52nd birthday next Thursday on the 27th, along with one of my very favorite actresses, Ms. Mimi Rogers. I had planned to do a double up birthday tribute for both Mimi and Keith on that morning. I have already written Mimi's and was actually researching Keith's bio while watching last Friday evening's edition of "Countdown." So it came as quite a surprise as Keith closed for a commercial break with this matter of fact statement:
"This will be the last edition of Countdown. I'll explain in a minute."
Well I was shocked for a moment, my heart beat a little faster. He had been smiling when he said it so I thought this must be some kind of joke, or "Countdown," was going to go through a structural change, like a chair being reupholstered. Unfortunately I would be wrong. When the show resumed, well, this is what Keith said:
I sat dazed. I couldn't think for awhile, and then began realizing what the consequences of this meant, not only to me and my daily routine and viewing habits, but for the progressive cause, and the country as a whole. I looked on line for some kind of explanation, but it was still too early, the only info I could find being "Immediate Results" on my Google page who were people tweeting about how shocked they were, just like me. A lot of people were shocked.
Some people were happy. Conservative Fox watchers. They gloated. They are major assholes.
I was prompted to take an action I rarely take, to write to an organization directly. So I deposited this message to the MSNBC website "Contact Us," section, regarding "Countdown," with Keith Olbermann:
"I am shocked to discover that MSNBC has not renewed it's contract with Keith Olbermann, and that the last edition of Countdown aired this evening.
Keith was one of the only voices on the air which directly rebutted the constant lies told on Fox, and was a leading voice for the progressive movement in this country. MSNBC has given a victory to the Republican Noise Machine, has lessened our ability to broadcast the truth, and not only done it's viewers a grave disservice, but the entire country. I for one will be switching to CNN and PBS for news sources. I was once proud to say I watched MSNBC religiously. Now I am ashamed of it's management and don't wish to have anything to do with the channel. Richard Joyce."
My threats of abandoning the network are empty. I will still watch Rachel Maddow, Ed Schultz, and Lawrence O'Donnell (who will be taking over Keith's spot), but they won't know that.
Pretty soon I found this in the "News" from the Los Angeles Times:
"MSNBC announced Friday night that its marquee "Countdown" anchor and talk show host Keith Olbermann was out. The network did not provide a reason for his abrupt departure.
'MSNBC and Keith Olbermann have ended their contract. The last broadcast of "Countdown with Keith Olbermann" will be this evening. MSNBC thanks Keith for his integral role in MSNBC's success and we wish him well in his future endeavors,' NBC Universal said in a statement.
Olbermann and his bosses have clashed in recent months. He was suspended in November for two days after revelations that he gave donations to a Democratic political candidate, which was a violation of the company's ethics policies for news employees. LA Times"
So he got fired. Well it wouldn't be the first time.
Keith Theodore Olbermann began his career in the broadcast industry as a small infant being born in New York City in 1959. That would make him a few years younger than myself, just a kid really. His dad, Theodore, was a successful architect, and his mom, Marie Katherine, a preschool teacher. Unfortunately Keith lost both of them very recently, Theodore, died on March 13, 2010 of complications from colon surgery. Keith took substantial time off from "Countdown," to be with his father during his last days, reading to him from James Thurber (which would become a weekly feature on the show as evidenced above), and reporting occasionally on his condition and the state of medical health care in the country in general. At one point his father's pain was so great he asked his son to help him end it all. What would you do, dear readers?
Keith had already lost his mom. Marie Katherine passed away on April 4th, 2009 from terminal cancer, a disease she was asymptomatic of until two weeks before she died. Below is Keith's on air memorial to this remarkable woman:
As was related Keith became a huge baseball fan, and began collecting baseball cards as soon as he started earning an allowance. And he was a good, avid collector, becoming a nationally recognized expert on collecting and trading the cards while still in his teens, and publishing articles in several major publications about the subject (today his collection numbers at least 35,000)
Keith is one of these smart bastards, who like his birthday mate, Mimi Rogers, began college at an ungodly early age, 16, for him, 14 for her. He attended Cornell, where a lot of smart bastards go. While there he served as the sports director of the college radio station. He graduated in 1979 with a degree communications.
Keith worked in radio at first, for the RKO Network and United Press International, then joined CNN 1981, just one year after the first 24/7 television news channel was founded. I'm told he covered the Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, although I'm not sure how that happened since the games were in February of 1980, and he didn't join the network until 1981. So ladies and gentlemen, Keith Olbermann and CNN discovered time travel as well.
Quite an accomplishment for a 22 year old. He left CNN and worked in New York and Boston before moving out here to Los Angeles, where I remember seeing him on CBS as a sports anchor. I remember him because I was impressed with his style, his manner, his knowledge, but especially his humor. I'm not exactly sure what year this was, and Keith's bio doesn't help me out, but it must have been the mid 80's, and I would have been living with the love of my life then, Jan. Anyway, while working in L.A. Keith won won 11 Golden Mike Awards (for outstanding broadcast work in Southern California), and named best sportscaster by the California Associated Press three times.
In 1992 Keith joined the sports network ESPN, until 1997, when he was suspended for two weeks for making an unauthorized appearance on The Daily Show with Craig Kilborn. Later that year he departed the network after a dustup with management, a portent of things to come. Thus began a long, drawn out feud between Keith and the network.
Keith began reporting straight news at MSNBC in 1997, on the primetime "Big Show with Keith Olbermann," which dealt with three or four topics during the hour long broadcast, a forerunner to the "Countdown," format. But he got tired of being forced to report on the Monica Lewinsky scandal of 1998, and soon left.
There is a certain amount of irony involved with Keith coming to work for Fox in 1998, as this network would soon become one of his favorite targets for derision.
Another claim to fame... in July of 1999 he was a guest star on "The Hollywood Squares," ten times!
Fox fired him in 2001, after he reported that Rupert Murdoch was going to sell the L.A. Dodgers (he did sell the Dodgers in 2004).
After Fox Keith returned to news journalism after being deeply affected by the events of 9/11. He returned to MSNBC in 2003 as a substitute anchor. "Countdown," Keith's own show premiered on March 31 of that year.
The show typically ran five news stories each segment, the most "serious," being the first aired, but numbered 5th on the countdown, the 1st story usually being of a lighter nature.
It is more than interesting that Keith has often been compared to Paddy Chayefsky's creation, the news anchor Howard Beale, who urges his audience to proclaim, "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore," as Keith referenced that character himself in the above sign off. Well Keith was our "Mad Prophet," not that he was insane as Beale was, but angry, and quite aften mad as hell.
I lived in the Las Americas for at least five years without cable television. Rather than watch crappy broadcast TV I would listen to the radio most of the time. When Stephanie Miller came on the air in 2004, she and her cohorts would often play clips from "Countdown," and I would be intrigued. Indeed, one of the main reasons I wanted cable was just to be able to watch Keith's show, hence I was the first in the building to sign up with Time/Warner after the building was finally wired. I was not disappointed.
Currently, there are fewer than 100 U.S. commercial radio stations carrying liberal talk programs, compared to around 600 stations for Rush Limbaugh, 500 for Sean Hannity etcetera. Fox News consistently trounces all other cable news channels thoroughly in ratings (I have a theory regarding why that is. Fox viewers have a need to be lead, or rather told what their world view is on a daily basis so they can survive. Liberal viewers on the other hand, are much more independent and smarter, with opinions of their own). The claims of the right of a liberal leaning media are like everything else they talk about... lies. The media is much more slanted toward the right. That is why losing "Countdown," is a huge setback for the progressive cause, and the progressive cause is reality based, fighting for the lives and livlihood of mainstream middle class Americans, for the country as a whole. The right represents corporations, the left people, working people, middle class people, people who are currently being raped by the masters of the right. That is why the loss of any progressive voice is a big deal, and Keith was the best. The only winners after the loss of "Countdown," are Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, and the corporations that control them. Thank God we still have Ed, Lawrence, and Rachel to call them out.
In my humble opinion MSNBC president Phil Griffin should offer his resignation immediately, if not sooner. Anyone who would let their leading show fail in this way is clearly not qualified to run the network. Perhaps the new management with Comcast will feel the same way.
Anyway, as I've said, Keith has been fired before many times. It's the nature of the industry he works in. He will apparently be barred from working at another television or cable network for a specified amount of time, similar to what Conan O'Brian endured upon his departure from NBC (one has to wonder why it is NBC, and its affiliates that consistently go through this type of drama). But he will resurface, and I'm sure be stronger for having gone through this.
Here's one more example of why we needed Keith, why we appreciated him, and why we will miss him:
Soon after "Countdown," ended last Friday evening, not more than ten minutes after, I heard Keith's voice again coming from a network promo.
You're going to have to change that Mr. Griffen. You don't have Keith Olbermann to kick around anymore.

No comments:

Post a Comment