Olbermann comes out swinging as ‘Countdown’ returns

Keith Olbermann, who left MSNBC in January, was back on the air last night on Current TV. Keith Olbermann, who left MSNBC in January, was back on the air last night on Current TV. (Justin Stephens/ Current TV)
By Matthew Gilbert
Globe Staff / June 21, 2011

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We can only imagine how Keith Olbermann has coped with being off the air during the Anthony Weiner scandal and the killing of Osama bin Laden, among the other news events of the past five months. Olbermann likes to speak out, he likes to speak out loudly, and he likes to speak out loudly with a remarkable number of words per minute. The big guy rat-a-tats at the camera like a machine gun.

So last night, as he returned on Current TV after leaving MSNBC in January, you could feel his sense of pent-up release. He jumped right into the fray with his same nightly show, “Countdown With Keith Olbermann,’’ complete with the same theme music and returning features such as “Worst Person.’’ He was obviously pleased to be back in his chair a little more than 500 days before the 2012 presidential election.

“As I was saying,’’ he joked about his months of absence, before moving onto a discussion with contributor Michael Moore about Libya, President Obama, and Congress. He also talked to contributor John Dean, former White House counsel to President Nixon, about The New York Times report on Justice Clarence Thomas’s connection to a conservative real estate magnate.

Those conversations were informed enough, if marred by excessive reverence for the host (“You’ve been missed by a lot of people,’’ Moore gushed.)

But Olbermann’s chat with contributor Markos Moulitsas, blogger and founder of the Daily Kos, was really off-putting, as they talked inside baseball about Moulitsas having been banned from MSNBC. Let’s hope Olbermann doesn’t spend a lot of time trashing his former network from his new perch.

Olbermann has never shied away from self-reference, of course. He made a Grand Mission Statement last night, saying his viewpoint is “that the weakest citizen of this country is more important than the strongest corporation; that the nation is losing its independence through the malfeasance of one political party and the timidity of another; and that, even though you and I should not have to be the last line of defense, apparently we are, so we damn well better start being it.’’

Whew. Olbermann is still Olbermann: left-leaning, punctuated by ironic humor, veering into bombast, and underpinned by sincerity. You’ll just need to look a little harder in the far reaches of cable to find him.

Matthew Gilbert can be reached at

On: Current TV

Last night, 8-9