Good Night and Good Luck

MSNBC abruptly announced on Friday that Countdown with Keith Olbermann was being cancelled and that the network and Mr. Olbermann were parting ways. This was no small decision as Keith had two years left on his contract reportedly worth $14 million. Many people were surprised by this sudden departure. Countdown, after all, was the highest rated show on MSNBC. In fact, some argue that Countdown made MSNBC. When Keith was hired in 2003 the network was an abysmal last place contender compared to all the other news networks.

I particularly appreciated Countdown. I had just been through the 2000 election debacle. George W. Bush had been appointed to the presidency based on a corrupt supreme court justice and a flawed electoral college combined with political upheaval in Florida governed at that time by Bush’s brother.

Then 9/11 occurred. Our nation came under attack and the tepid response of the man who would be king illustrated just how vulnerable we were. In fact he thought, ‘Hey, what a great opportunity to show my Dad up. Let’s invade Iraq heh, heh, heh!’

Keith Olbermann

Keith was given a fill-in slot on a little known show on a fledgling network in 2003. That turned into a regular gig that would last for almost eight years. And it was a timely decision. I thought the sane world was coming to an end and I couldn’t fathom how to deal with it. Then Keith started posting his opposition to what the Bush administration was doing. He began to expose the Bush administration for all it’s egregious errors. Suddenly, I had a voice.

After 9/11 there was a jingoistic, McCarthy-like response. It’s understandable but it was also wrong. Countdown became the voice that countered that. And I owe Keith Olbermann for this blog. I took up the mantle of reason and decided to voice my perspective because of his dissent against the status quo.

Interestingly enough, I am tangentially associated with all of this. I was a survivor of a merger / acquisition of Universal. I chose to leave the media world for academia during the Internet takeover of content in the late nineties. The writing on the wall was clear; the entertainment industry was fundamentally changing and people outside of it were going to be calling the shots. Which is why I’m delighted to read that Edgar Bronfman Jr. has recently been found guilty of securities fraud. Didn’t see Steve Jobs coming, did you, Edgar? Payback’s a bitch, ain’t it? How does it feel having a larger entity dictate circumstances in your life like the Seagram acquisition did in mine?

Okay; enough gloating.

We live in an age of media Tycoons. Ted Turner was the son of an Atlanta billboard advertising family business. He went on to create CNN. Rupert Murdoch started with a newspaper in Adelaide, Australia. He founded FOX News. The primary force behind these media conglomerates has been advertising. Networks have had decades to perfect advertising. They created shows called ‘soap operas’ because they sold detergent to housewives during the commercial break from empathizing with living lives of loud desperation.

Half of every dollar you spend will go towards some kind of advertising. The commercials on the traditional networks mirror the demographic of its aging audience. Medical companies who offer drugs with fluffy ad names, like ‘Boniva’ or ‘Lunesta’ to address ailments most young people don’t experience like ‘restless leg syndrome’ or ‘chronic dry eye’. Those are like diseases invented by the drug industry. And let’s face it, if you’re not having sex like you did when you were in the Sigma Chi house in college, then you’re obviously inadequate unless you buy [insert fancy sounding drug here]. Hump your doctor’s leg if you have an erection lasting more than four hours.

The big three networks are becoming extinct. The Internet is making them irrelevant. Advertisers smell new blood

It’s no secret that Keith had a contentious relationship with the media overlords. He parted ways on ESPN under terse circumstances. He had actually been at NBC previously. One NBC News executive said on Sunday: “Give us a bit of credit for getting eight years out of him. That’s the longest he’s been anywhere.”

Frankly, I saw it coming. Every time I saw Sam Seder sitting in I thought to myself, ‘Well, they finally canned Keith’. After the suspension for his contributing to (of all people Gabrielle Giffords) political candidates on some technicality in his contract, I’m surprised it took them this long.

Keith will surface again. He has a non-compete clause in his contract but once that’s over I suspect we’ll see him back in action.

About Mr. Universe

Mr. Universe is a musician/songwriter and an ex-patriot of the south. He currently lives and teaches at a University in the Pacific Northwest. He is a long distance hiker who has hiked the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail. He is also an author and woodworker. An outspoken political voice, he takes a decidedly liberal stance in politics.
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25 Responses to Good Night and Good Luck

  1. shiloh says:

    Having said everything that needs to be said, I won’t be redundant. But it is interesting Keith’s departure was kept pretty much under wraps for (6) mos. if one is to believe current reporting. In today’s media that would be unheard of, except maybe if each side gave themselves a “gag” order 😉 while the negotiations continued.

    Would have preferred Rachel have the 8pm time slot and Lawrence 9pm. Suspect they gave Ed 10pm ’cause they want to bounce his whining ass from MSNBC as soon as possible and his ratings should tank fairly quickly w/the later graveyard shift.

    That is all …

  2. Monotreme says:

    I’m no fan of Big Pharma, but restless leg syndrome and dry eye syndrome are real maladies that cause pain and discomfort for a large number of people. They were not invented by drug companies.

  3. Bart DePalma says:

    Olby demanded more money than is paltry ratings could support and he was given the heave ho.

    Nothing sexier than that.

  4. shortchain says:

    I don’t think it can be as simple as a dispute over compensation. KO had two years to run in his contract, so that explanation appears to fly in the face of facts.

    It probably also cannot be as simple as Comcast’s heavy hand reaching down and plucking him out.

    The truth is likely more complex, equivocal, and strange.

    I found KO too strident for my taste, but then I find all political commentary produced for mass markets either worthlessly namby-pamby (George S., for example) or simple spin (Ari Fleischer). But then, I’m not the target market for that kind of stuff.

  5. Bart DePalma says:


    MSNBC’s targeted market is the Kos Kidz demographic. They can’t challenge CNN for quality, so MSNBC is marketing itself as the leftist Fox. Thus, they have no political or business problem with Olby.

    However, MSNBC and its parent NBC News lose money. There simply are not enough Kos Kidz who are willing to pull themselves away from the computer and watch a leftist news network. If Olby could even beat Greta van Sustren’s numbers after prime time, then he might have an argument for the money he is currently being paid nevertheless a raise. Since he cannot, MSNBC apparently fired him.

  6. erik says:

    “Medical companies who offer drugs with fluffy ad names, like ‘Boniva’ or ‘Lunesta’ to address ailments most young people don’t experience like ‘restless leg syndrome’ or ‘chronic dry eye’. ”

    Tangential observation here that I’m sure has been made in previous posts/comments.
    A soft spot in support for the current version of PPACA arises from the misconception among the young that they’re quasi- immortal. The healthy young can’t imagine being unhealthy. Needing extended medical care. So they balk at being required to buy health insurance because the don’t even voluntarily buy health insurance. Convincing them otherwise would be a challenge well worth undertaking.

    I don’t know his age, but monotreme’s comment underlines the fact that those who don’t experience the medical problems experienced by many tend to minimize or deny those problems.

  7. Number Seven says:

    I just heard on the Stephanie Miller show that the non compete clause is only four and a half months long. Strange, short number, imo.

    Comparing ratings between FOX Boobs and MSNBC is like comparing one channel that is on basic cable and one that is on premium cable. I guess that means MSNBC is better because who wants basic meat when you can get premium meat, right?

    I think this is a sign of things to come. We no longer have real news, we have infotainment. I guess KO was not entertaining enough without Dubya in office anymore. KO was the highest rated show on MSNBC and for him to be canned just days after the merger is not a coincidence.

  8. mclever says:

    I’ll rephrase my intentionally incendiary post from the previous thread to be more in line with my actual opinions on the matter…

    While I appreciate that Keith Olbermann was one of the few, original voices for left-wing views on cable news, I’m not particularly bent that he is off the air for a while. I probably agree with 90% of his politics, but I couldn’t listen to his show for long. I tried, but his abrasive style was too acerbic and high-volume for me. I admit that it sometimes felt viscerally good to stick it to BillO, but I didn’t like the type of person that made me to be. Keith’s show was repetitive and ugly, and I want to be better than that.

    Perhaps part of the reason I don’t have the same fond feelings for KO that those who saw him as the “lone voice in the wilderness” do, is because I didn’t discover MSNBC or Keith until much later. Unlike our intrepid Mr. Universe, I suffered through much of the Bush years in Texas of all places, where voicing my political opinion was tantamount to a fistfight, and I thought I was a conservative until they set me straight. I didn’t know of Keith Olbermann (or Ed Schultz or any other liberal commentator), so I had to be my own voice of reason. Many of my friends and family are conservative, and I know they aren’t evil people. We simply disagree.

    I fully expect Keith Olbermann to be back. He’s not the type to be silenced for long. He’s brash, he’s daring, and he’s passionate, often requiring apology later. I get why some people like him, just don’t expect me to.

  9. mclever says:


    …underlines the fact that those who don’t experience the medical problems experienced by many tend to minimize or deny those problems.

    I agree completely. Especially when people think a chronic condition is a character flaw rather than a medical problem that can be treated… Autism is real, ADHD is real, RLS is real, fibromyalgia is real, diabetes is real, depression is real, insomnia is real, etc. etc. etc…

    Personally, I don’t think there should be any drug commercials on TV. PSAs telling people to get themselves checked for various conditions, OK. Advertisements for specific drugs really bother me. I think the marketing should be aimed at doctors rather than patients, so the doctor decides whether Ambien, Lunesta, or an OTC remedy is best for their patient.

  10. Mr. Universe says:

    For the record, I don’t mean to demean anybody with a real ailment such as restless leg syndrome (often considered to be a precursor to Parkinson’s). Rather I object to how it is marketed by big pharma. This article was not my best. I was all over the place and had little time to devote to it.

    BTW, you should catch Colbert’s take on Keith from last night (especially the last segment of the show). Supremely funny.

    Mclever’s point is well taken in that many view Olbermann as a blowhard. I found him to be a credible and intelligent outlet for my outrage. The new crop of yelling punditry doesn’t inspire me at all. Lawrence O’Donnell has some rage issues, Ratigan is one of those hosts who steps on everyone’s thoughts (no different than anyone on FOX), Ed is tolerable, but Rachel is my cup of tea.

    Honestly, I think Keith himself had evolved. I think he was tired of his brand being regarded as reactionary. Now that Bush is out, how can one keep selling outrage? Civility is the new black. He served his purpose. Time to move on.

  11. NotImpressed says:

    I’ll miss Keith for as long as he’s gone. If he is acerbic, he also is passionate. Too much liberal argument is only rational, and rationality can only get you so far in a world dominated by advertising and “reality” shows. That Olbermann is also intelligent, reasoned, and rational, on top of being right, is sheer genius.

    Comparing MSNBC ratings and FOX ratings is like comparing Walter Cronkite to “Dukes of Hazard.” Or comparing political convention coverage to the latest season of 24. OF COURSE irrational dysfunction and paranoid shoot-em-ups outscore documentaries at the box office. We are supposed to be impressed with this? Or stop showing actual news in favor of bullshit?

    Most low-information TV zombots turn on the tube for their daily dose of electronic cocaine, not for intelligent discussion of real information. If I got high ratings on FOX, I’d be too embarrassed to admit it.

    Believing the sewage-world portrayed by FOX is like living inside Saw III. It may be exciting, but it has nothing to do with reality. Proclaiming that MSNBC doesn’t get the ratings that FOX does is an admission that heroin is more addictive than broccoli. But stop to consider which of those is healthier. And consider for a moment what it says about our society that we value empty mindless popularity over substance.

  12. shiloh says:

    Barted ~ They can’t challenge CNN for quality

    First heard the report that Gabrielle Giffords was dead on CNN. First heard the report she was still alive on MSNBC as fixednoise piggybacked on both for their factual news, as per usual …

    Again, fixednoise has a ready made audience of yahoo, non-thinking lemmings ie Bartles and no competition from a competing conservative faux cable news network.

    As previously mentioned, WWE RAW ratings are higher than prime time fixed. hmm, a steel cage death match between beck and hannity ?!?

    ‘nuf said!

  13. Bartbuster says:

    a steel cage death match between beck and hannity ?!?

    I would pay more for a ticket to that than I would for a Super Bowl ticket if my own child were playing in the Super Bowl.

  14. mclever says:


    With your WWE RAW mention, you’ve got me imagining Cena laying the STFU on Hannity, followed by Edge spearing O’Reilly. Then, Rey with a 619 on the immigrant paranoid Beck. Add some “trouble in paradise”, a giant choke-slam, or a moonsault off the top rope, and it gets really fun. Whether it’s “Core” or “Nexus” it’s sure to be a beat down!

    You really shouldn’t tempt me like that!


  15. mclever says:

    In the interest of fairness, the liberal talking heads can all face tag-team champs Santino and Kozlov. Should be about even…


  16. shiloh says:

    mclever indeed as fixednoise is “performance art” much like the WWE …

    btw, your knowledge 😛 far exceeds mine as I stopped payin’ attention to Hulk Hogan and his buddies in the early ’80s. What was Linda McMahon thinkin’ 😀 ok, Auuunold Alois Schwarzenegger may have got her a tad overconfident lol

    Again, the best tag team of all-time, bar none, cheney/bush! as their trek of American destruction was unmatched in presidential history!

  17. mclever says:


    WWE today has less blood, but more dynamic physical action and way more high-risk, hard core stunts. With Ric Flair (WHOOOOOO!) gone as the last of the really old guard, there’s no more blading. It’s more about the high-flying, high-paced action, rather than Hogan’s stilted moves. Remember when Randy Savage was so exciting because of his flying elbow? Well, now they’ve got guys who do 540 frog-splashes and hurricanranas off the top rope onto the floor outside the ring.

    It’s still a total soap-opera on steroids. Every “superstar” is a caricature. And, I only watch wrestling slightly more often than I watched Keith Olbermann.


  18. shiloh says:

    The second pic isn’t her ~ my bad! May she rest in peace …

  19. Monotreme says:

    Erik said:

    I don’t know his age, but monotreme’s comment underlines the fact that those who don’t experience the medical problems experienced by many tend to minimize or deny those problems.

    Which comment are you referring to? I suspect it was not my comment, reproduced here:

    I’m no fan of Big Pharma, but restless leg syndrome and dry eye syndrome are real maladies that cause pain and discomfort for a large number of people. They were not invented by drug companies.

  20. erik says:

    Apparentlyl I misunderstood your intent or you misunderstood mine.

    Chronic dry eye is usually associated with the aged, but it sometimes afflicts the young:
    Of the two basic types of restless leg syndrome, onset for one is after age 45. One begins in childhood. In my post I was trying to emphasize the inability and or unwillingness of many in our younger population to empathize with or understand such very real maladies (“they minimize or deny these problems”) , accept the possibility that they may fall victim to such illnesses, and using good common sense either buy insurance voluntarily or see the sense in mandating that people such as themselves with their heads stuck in the ground , purchase health insurance.

    Other than thatwhat exactly is your problem with my reference to your post?

  21. Bartbuster says:

    The problem isn’t that these illnesses are not real, the problem is that endless commercials for things like “restless leg syndrome” are convincing people that any occasional twitch is a serious problem. Long ago Big Pharma was not allowed to advertise prescription drugs. We need to go back to those days.

  22. mclever says:


    I think Monotreme thought you were suggesting that he didn’t take various maladies seriously, which is obviously the opposite of his intent. I think you’re both saying essentially the same thing, just from a different perspective.

  23. mclever says:


    I agree with you regarding the obscene over-saturation of our airwaves with Pharma commercials. As I said up-thread, I have no problem with PSAs telling people to get checked for various conditions, but I think marketing for specific treatments should be restricted to those in the medical profession who are better in a position to judge whether a specific remedy is appropriate for a given patient.

    A patient shouldn’t be going to her doctor saying, “Hey Doc, I want Lunesta.” A patient should be saying, “Hey Doc, I’m having trouble sleeping,” and then the doctor should be the one to recommend Lunesta, Ambien, warm milk, chamomile, behavior changes, or any other remedy based on the severity and other aspects of the patient’s case.

  24. Number Seven says:

    Good points. It is like our doctors have to be our drug dealers also.

    Gimme a baggie of oxy, man!!!

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