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Olbermann Out, Spitzer In at Current TV

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Once Keith Olbermann worked for MSNBC. Then he left amid a feud with his bosses. Then he signed up to remake Current TV’s news operation. Then he got embroiled in a feud with his bosses (despite ostensibly being one of them). Now, eight months and change later, late on a Friday afternoon Current announced that Olbermann is leaving the network because “Current was… founded on the values of respect, openness, collegiality, and loyalty to our viewers. Unfortunately these values are no longer reflected in our relationship with Keith Olbermann.”

His replacement: former CNN host, former New York State governor and former Client No. 9 Eliot Spitzer. Starting in (looks at watch) two hours and 33 minutes.

This is one of those inside-media stories, the number of words written about which will probably surpass the actual viewership of the show within minutes. But I’ll add just a few more:

* You may love Keith Olbermann or hate him. But at this point, does any TV network hire him again, ever, to do anything? Olbermann’s record of not playing well with his bosses—MSNBC, Fox Sports, MSNBC again—was a running gag well before Current. Maybe sometimes he was sinned against as well as sinning. But here you had him at a network where he was handed the keys–literally given a piece of the network. Maybe the production values were bad. Maybe there was drama we don’t know about. But there’s drama everywhere. People deal with it. At some point, it’s not them, it’s you, no?

* So what’s next? The GBTV route? It would at least be ironic to see Olbermann follow the career path of Glenn Beck.

* I was, I am on record, not a fan of Spitzer’s CNN show. I’m not going to reargue his broadcast talent nor his legal record. But all that aside, this may not be a bad choice for Current, simply as a business move. The bar is not high, ratings-wise, and Spitzer is a known quantity. If he brings a modest, but devoted and partisan fanbase—and doesn’t gripe too much about the wiring—that may be enough.

* That said: really? Is the talent pool really that shallow? Does Current really want to become known as the Plan C Network for Slightly Used Liberals? Current may not be a premium perch, but there have to be plenty of rising talents who would be glad to sign with the network in exchange for the chance to drive a show. Instead, it looks like, this version of Current is a network you have to work your way down to.

Update: Within minutes of the announcement, Olbermann responded to Current (and promised legal action) via Twitter. It’s on his Twitter page, or, in full:

I’d like to apologize to my viewers and my staff for the failure of Current TV.
Editorially, Countdown had never been better. But for more than a year I have been imploring Al Gore and Joel Hyatt to resolve our issues internally, while I’ve been not publicizing my complaints, and keeping the show alive for the sake of its loyal viewers and even more loyal staff. Nevertheless, Mr. Gore and Mr. Hyatt, instead of abiding by their promises and obligations and investing in a quality news program, finally thought it was more economical to try to get out of my contract.
It goes almost without saying that the claims against me implied in Current’s statement are untrue and will be proved so in the legal actions I will be filing against them presently. To understand Mr. Hyatt’s “values of respect, openness, collegiality and loyalty,” I encourage you to read of a previous occasion Mr. Hyatt found himself in court for having unjustly fired an employee. That employee’s name was Clarence B. Cain. http://nyti.ms/HueZsa
In due course, the truth of the ethics of Mr. Gore and Mr. Hyatt will come out. For now, it is important only to again acknowledge that joining them was a sincere and well-intentioned gesture on my part, but in retrospect a foolish one. That lack of judgment is mine and mine alone, and I apologize again for it.

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