HBO releases trailer for Sorkin’s Olbermann show as Current post-mortems detail anchor’s complaints, lousy ratings

The Daily Beast | The New York Times

Emails between Keith Olbermann's manager and Current TV executives chronicle a "slow-motion divorce," writes Howard Kurtz (though isn't 13 months from marriage to splitsville rather zippy?). Olbermann, through his manager Michael Price, complained about the set, muffed technical cues and "eight different car services" the network used to bring him to work; Olbermann found "fault with each one, sometimes objecting when drivers talked to him." Current's side of the story from the emails: Olbermann took inconvenient vacations, refused to promote the show and forbade his staff from promoting his show when it was guest-hosted.

Current's problems only start with Olbermann's messy exit, Brian Stelter writes. The channel is still looking to find an identity, one ironically not helped by Olbermann's rise as a powerful liberal voice:

Now, liberal journalists and pundits who were inspired by Mr. Olbermann’s invectives against the Iraq war and the Bush administration five years ago have multiple channels to appear on and potentially be paid by — a marketplace, in effect, for liberal talent on television.

(Cue scoffing in the comments.) More to the point, viewership is wretched.

And as for the conventional wisdom that this latest blowup is Olbermann's last act? Don't bet on it, David Carr writes. He may be a pain, but he can do something few humans can actually do: Hold viewers' attention.

Anchoring a show on television looks easy. Buy a nice suit, get a nice haircut and read the words on the prompter in the right order with some semblance of conviction. But it’s not. As cable stations proliferate, the desperate search for people who can credibly show up every night — or not, as Mr. Olbermann was frequently on strike at Current — and hold an audience’s attention will only become more acute. Mr. Olbermann has a terrible relationship with actual humans, but a very good relationship with the camera.

Olbermann may not be back on air as quickly as his fictional counterpart will debut. With perfect timing, HBO has released the trailer for its new Aaron Sorkin show, "The Newsroom," based on the unpredictable anchor:

  • Andrew Beaujon

    Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at TBD.com and managing editor of Washington City Paper. He's the author of the 2006 book "Body Piercing Saved My Life," about Christian rock and evangelical Christian culture.

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