A PR Blitz for a Kinder, Gentler Keith Olbermann
If viewers don't follow Countdown from MSNBC to Current TV, it won't be for a lack of effort on the part of host Keith Olbermann, who has been a one-man marketing machine in the weeks leading up to his show's re-launch. Last night, he read off a list of the 'Top Ten Reasons To Watch the New Countdown' on The Late Show with David Letterman.
Olbermann's never been press shy, but he's been doing double-duty to get the word out about his new show and hard-to-find new network. So far at least, he's managed to keep things self-deprecating and mellow, at least by Olbermann's standards. (Audiences apparently like it, if you believe the Current TV publicity department: they say the Monday premiere of Countdown attracted 179,000 viewers in the 25-54 demographic, trouncing CNN's In The Arena, which had 89,000. Update: As CNN points out to us, Eliot Spitzer is on vacation this week so he was not hosting Monday's show.) Is Olbermann's good behavior a sign of a newfound fondness for the high road, or is it the result of some sort of non-disparagement pledge that he had to give MSNBC to leave the network? Either way, we've enjoyed seeing the less-quick-to-anger side of Olbermann's personality in prominent interviews over the past month. Some notable instances of the newsman avoiding the easy takedown:
- In David Carr's New York Times Magazine profile, Olbermann had tough words for MSNBC ("There is a lot of desperation over there now, and it’s completely justified," he told Carr), but his assessment of Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter was just as cutting and more specific. "Look at that slugging percentage,” said Olbermann. “It’s terrible. Awful." (Carr probably reached the root of Olbermann's good behavior when he observed that Olbermann "would wear a sandwich board to retail his new enterprise if he thought it would help.")
- Olbermann graced the cover of The Hollywood Reporter earlier this month, but when the subject turned to NBC News, he refused to napalm any bridges. Instead, he talked about how he and Rachel Maddow haven't spoken and the impact Tim Russert's death had on him. The only real airing of grievances came when he suggested former NBC president Jeff Zucker had him axed from the network's NFL pregame show after he joked about Zucker's job security.
- An interview with Rolling Stone would be an ideal vehicle for taking potshots, but he passed in favor of vague, cryptic references to his former employer: "The joke is, it's apparently not as easy to leave NBC as it looks."
- Even his overwhelmingly negative portrayal in the new ESPN oral history These Guys Have All The Fun hasn't bothered Olbermann. "I naturally read the parts about me first to see if there were any forest fires. There were no forest fires. There are some funny things in it," he admitted in The Hollywood Reporter profile. "Honestly, hearing which executive thinks he was most responsible for the success of the place is probably not going to interest people who are picking up the book to find out how big of a jackass I am. Was I not a big enough jackass? Do I need to go back and jackass some more?"