Thursday, February 18, 2010
Reason.tv: Dramatic Olbermann vs. Dramatic Chipmunk or, Premature Obit for the Capt. Queeg of cable news
No one is more self-dramatizing on cable news than male hysteric, unsolicited janitor of Cooperstown, and Countdown host Keith Olbermann, who includes more special effects during his Castro-length “Special Comment” segments than Mikhail Kalatozov did in I Am Cuba (one cinematically exemplary rant remains Commandante O’s multi-camera denouncement of Hillary Clinton during the 2008 campaign).
When Olbermann is not ripping “tea-baggers” (get it, har har har) or slagging honest reporters such as Miami Herald TV critic and Reason contributing editor Glenn Garvin (who committed the unpardonable crime of reporting that Olbermann donned a Bill O’Reilly mask and did Nazi salutes in front of a room full of TV critics), he is courageously taking a stand in favor of English-only at schools, judging Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News as “worse than Al Qaeda,” and extolling Sen. All Aboard Amtrak, Joe Biden, who embodies the Holy Trinity of Olbermannia: “passion, detail and eloquence.”
Countdown—it’s like Rupert Pupkin finally did get a talk show that could broadcast far past the paneled walls of Mom’s basement and reach most of the neighborhood—is must-see TV, as riveting as a nail gun powered by nuclear energy on steroids, the sort of can’t-turn-away-from-car-wreck-like commentary usually associated with CNN hosts who have actually been in car wrecks (like this guy and this one).
And yet, even (or perhaps especially) in Obama’s America, where Dick Cheney is still making millions of ill-gotten gains by keeping unemployment high and sending troops to the Middle East and Central Asia to secure Haliburton’s ultra-lucrative tapioca concessions, there are signs that this world was never meant for one as beautiful as Olbermann.
“Has the countdown begun for the end of ‘Countdown with Keith Olbermann’?” asks The New York Post. “With his ratings in free-fall, and his hateful histrionics reaching new highs, even Olbermann’s former supporters on the left are tuning out.” Indeed, The Los Angeles Times reports, “In the most desirable TV demographic of 25-54, which Keith will soon outgrow himself, ‘Countdown’ lost 44% of its audience from the beginning of President Obama’s term until this year.”
As a public service, and before Keith Olbermann joins the likes of failed talk show hosts such as Jerry Lewis, Chevy Chase, J.D. Hayworth, and former ESPN colleague Craig Kilborn, it’s worth remembering just how damn good Olbermann was before he lost the pop on his bat and could no longer backpedal with the sun in his eyes.
Like some small-screen, basic-cable Capt. Queeg without the strawberry fetish, Olbermann was staying up late and counting and recounting his vote for the Worst Person In The World (surprise! Bill O’Reilly won again!) while the rest of us were tearing it up on the playing fields of Princeton the Xbox version of NCAA Football. While the rest of us were arguing about politics, going to work every day, paying our taxes, protesting stupid policies…who was standing guard over this fat, dumb, happy country of ours, eh? Not us. Oh, no, we knew you couldn’t make any money in the service in cable TV. So who did the dirty work for us? Queeg Olbermann did! And a lot of other guys. Tough, sharp guys who didn’t crack up like Queeg Olbermann.
Before he descends to that green room below, the one where you have to do your own makeup and bring your own Evian (which is really tap water poured into a bottle you found behind the local 7-11) and use a Johnny-on-the-Spot (or better yet, just hold it until your 30-second spot is over and you can use the can in the nearby Waffle House, as gross as it is), gaze upon Olbermann throwing down against the single most dramatic figure on this damnable series of tubes we’ve come to rely on even more than latter-day Eric Sevareids and low-rated, histrionic opinion journalists.
And as Olbermann fades from memory even though he’s still on the air, like Diagnosis: Murder or DeGrassi Junior High, The Joe Franklin Show, and Oliver North’s War Stories, all of which may well be producing new episodes, ask yourself: Didn’t he take it to the chipmunk (which is not really a chipmunk, we know) like a pro? Go tell the Spartans, or at least Roger Ailes, that this was one Cool Hand Luke who could really take a punch!