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"COUNTDOWN WITH KEITH OLBERMANN" (8:00 P.M.-9:00 P.M. ET)
Host: Keith Olbermann
Keith Olbermann certainly has his priorities straight. Mel Gibson was the lead story on The Hour of Spin. As Countdown went to air at 8:00 pm, Israeli troops were reportedly engaged in a virulent firefight at a Bekaa Valley hospital. The war in the Middle East took a huge turn this evening, but Olby had bigger fish to fry: Mel Gibson.
Bear in mind that Krazy Keith has a dog in this fight. He's already declared that Mel's kareer is kaput, and so we can expect Countdown to mirror that spin. The first Olby interview was with "top newsmaker" Harvey Levin of the celebrity gossip page tmz.com. Next came Jackie Mason. Bear in mind that even though Mason was on during the first program block, he had already been promoed twice by KO, who insisted that:
He does not think any of this is funny.
Herr Olbermann was clearly playing up what was going to be righteous outrage from Mason, playing right into Olby's frame from Monday: "Mel's career is over". So what did Jackie have to say?
I think it's a big hullabaloo about nothing. The man was drunk. You never hold people responsible for every word they say when they're drunk. People when they're drunk start cursing their mother, their brother, they want to say I want to make love to my sister.... Whatever his subconscious, deep in his head, came out when he's drunk, I don't take that seriously.
Jackie quickly took over the segment, going after celebrities like Russell Crowe, and heaping praise on Pat Boone. Olby managed to squeeze in a question while Jackie was taking a breath:
Give me your reaction to this idea that, that, that, uh, Mel Gibson would be, would be speaking at the Yom Kippur services in a synagogue in, in Hollywood, and that the Anti Defamation League has already said it accepts the apology, does it end here, is there, what, is there more...?
Jackie Mason's classic reply is one that probably went completely over Olby's toupeed head, but as you read his words think about the infamous, deplorable Keith Olbermann and his olbsession with a certain cable news competitor:
People love to see a big star suffer. When you become too successful it brings out all the jealousy, and all the envy and the bitterness... and as soon as they do something wrong they love to jump on it--it becomes a beehive of activity. People become like maniacs. It becomes a whole tribal fascination to see if they could bury him for nothing. Because all of a sudden you're superior; all of a sudden he's the victim. All of a sudden you feel like you're the star. You could bury a star, that makes you a sensation. People love the feeling. It's a power trip for every schmuck in the world.
These words were spoken shortly after Keith (aka The Schmuck) read his first promo for O'Reilly Attack #103, scheduled for later in the "news" hour.
World news got bumped back to the #4 slot, and at that via a taped report courtesy of the NBC mothership. The war in the Middle East was covered for all of three minutes. Oddball followed, and in the #3 segment KO found time for a little more hard news: Castro and Cuba, the Iran crisis, and Iraq ("the bottomless pit"). Shapeshifter pundit Howard Fineman was there to serve as Olby's Echo. KO pulled out an old Bush campaign statement that just happens to be circulating onthe blue blogs (he should at least try not to be so obvious) and tried to make it into a contradiction. Total time for this segment: 8 minutes.
In the #2 segment, more breaking news: 25 years of MTV (recycled NBC video). That's really going to steal those smart, educated people away from Fox, ain't it Dan? This was followed by the O'Reilly attack (where Olby bashed Bill's book, which he hasn't read yet, by selectively quoting from someone else's review), Madonna, Peter Gammons, and Mel Gibson Puppet Theater. In the "nonpartisan" Media Matters Minute, "comedian Rush Limbaugh" was "worst" for no good reason (It was something about how civilian deaths are necessary to stop terror. If the "rule" is that there can never be civilian deaths, then it is impossible to defeat terrorists. Like we said: no good reason.)
We are beginning to see changes in The Hour of Spin. On Monday's edition, hard news represented less than half of the program; the rest was devoted to Lindsay Lohan, Mel Gibson, Katie Couric, and Michael Musto. Tonight, serious news didn't even make the "front page" of the broadcast. There was 11 minutes of substance, and the rest of the hour consisted of celebrities, pop culture, and tabloidism.
This is not unique to Countdown. Joe Scarborough's program, originally similar in content to The O'Reilly Factor, has of late turned heavily to tabloid fare. And the ratings for those segments have perked up a bit, despite forcing a bright guy like Joe to talk about noxious trivia. Has Dan Abrams, in an effort to stop the downward spiral of Countdown ratings, decided to "spice up" the content with an overdose of celebrities, tabloid stories, and pop culture news? Have we just identified Abrams's Master Plan to save A-Mess-NBC from its voyage to the bottom of the ratings barrel?
Not that we're complaining, mind you. The less time Herr Olbermann spends on substance, the less damage he, as America's most dangerous demagogue, can inflict. It will be fun to see how The Future of Television, the reincarnation of Edward R Murrow himself, deals with this in the days ahead.