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the film criticism aspect of cyber | by maryann johanson

ode to Keith Olbermann

Keith wasn’t on last night. Oh, Countdown, MSNBC’s only show worth watching, was on, but no Keith. Who the hell does he think he is, anyway? Just because he had the chance to go to some silly baseball game — apparently it was an important one or something — we should be left Keithless for an evening? Who told him he could get sick, like that recent bout of appendicitis that left us Keithless for days? (Like a burst appendix is such a big deal…) How dare he get a vacation day, like on Columbus Day a few weeks back — hey, if I’m working, so should he be.

I don’t wanna see guest hosts. It’s not Countdown without Keith Olbermann. I dunno about you, but I don’t event think of the show as Countdown — I just think, Oh, Keith’s on.
He’s why the show is what it is: his personality, his take on the news, his wit and intelligence. On Monday’s show this week, he referenced both the ancient roman poet Juvenal and Darth Vader. (Do you think Bill O’Reilly, Keith’s mortal enemy, knows who Juvenal is?) Also on Monday he deployed his new term for the political party that cries al Qaeda at every opportunity: Terror-publicans. See, it’s clever wordplay and clever political commentary, all in one. It’s a dessert topping and a floor wax!

On Tuesday’s show, Keith dared to use the word frustrated and frightened left-wing bloggers have been saying for years: fascist — he called Fox News’s new business channel the “Fascist Business Network.” As daring as Keith has been, this was, I think, an aggressive new step in the direction he been walking since the show debuted in 2003: speaking truth to power in a way that no other mainstream journalist is doing these days. And then, who were his two guests on Tuesday? Valerie Plame, who continues on her (totally justified) media rampage of calling Bush a liar for refusing to stand by his promise to remove from the White House whoever outed her as a spy, and George Carlin, who stated right there on live television that Bush’s presidency is illegal (not to mention calling the Bible “science fiction”). Keith’s been the only journalist/commentator on the air to call a spade a spade with such geeky style.

The constant references to The Simpsons and Monty Python alone leave no doubt about Keith’s proud status as a geek, a word I use with only positive connotations. (Rumor has it Olbermann’s staff scours geek sites like Fark.com for story ideas.) It’s geeks who see no contradiction in quoting ancient philosophers and modern comics — indeed, it’s geeks who see that the latter are the heirs of the former; and it’s geeks whom Keith is aping with his show: bloggers. Countdown is a blog, Keith’s blog, and it only works when he’s there to make it work. As Jossip pointed out during the appendicitis absence, “only Olbermann would mistake the excruciating pain of a burst appendix with the acute discomfort of sitting through another one of Dubya’s infamous pep talks.”

Which is why we love Keith — and not Countdown without him — and need our daily fix.

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  • brak666

    I respectfully disagree. Countdown is good without Keith, but only when Allison Stewart substitutes. Also, it’s not the only show worth watching on MSNBC. I get a lot out of Morning Joe even though I rarely agree with what’s said.

  • Moe

    Here in Canada, MSNBC is not part of the basic 70 channel package but i went to Dubia for a few months in the summer and caught it.

    Keith is worth my new cable package.

  • Harley

    I do the same thing. It isn’t “Countdown’s on”, it’s “Keith’s on.” While I don’t mind when Allison fills in, the show just isn’t the same without Keith.

  • One of the most clever things about the way the show’s set up is the range of stories and the order in which they’re played. Typically, a countdown would place the most important items last. On Countdown, though, the first story, called number 5, is a major discussion of politics that can go for twenty minutes. The celebrity fluff pieces are saved until the end and only get a couple minutes, but they’re teased in every break. That way, the people who only care about Britney’s baby are tricked into getting actual news on the way.

  • MaryAnn

    I never thought of it that way, Jurgan, but you’re absolutely right!

  • allochthon

    But! But! How can you mention Keith without pointing out his incredible Special Comments?

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