Countdown with Keith Olbermann
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A program on MSNBC that ran from 2003-11, then on Current TV from 2011-12.
Introduced as Countdown:Iraq, this hour-long show evolved into an opinionated political program that saw itself as a left-wing foil to Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, et al. Stories were given in "countdown" order:
- "#5" was the night's lead story, invariably a major political story with fifteen minutes or more given to detail and commentary.
- "#4" was a slightly shorter political story.
- "Oddball": Short segments of weird news, first followed by "Best Persons" (originally called "Top 3 Newsmakers", segment scrapped in 2009), then preceded by the Tweet of the Day (he gave in and joined). Now referred to as "Time Marches On."
- "#3" similar in scope to #4. Often, but not always, an under-reported story.
- "#2", the night's "Worst Persons in the World", a listing of three people/groups who've done or said something that Olbermann found rather ugly or reprehensible. Briefly suspended a couple of times, once in response to the Jon Stewart "Rally to Restore Sanity" (brought back after a fan poll, with a new "Not Really" graphic) and once in the wake of the Tucson shootings (the show ended on MSNBC shortly afterwards, and Worst Persons was revived on Current). When a Guest Host fills in for Olbermann, there is a short political story instead.
- Finally, "#1", usually entertainment news or some other fluff piece. Sometimes this is replaced with a "Special Comment", a rather long diatribe reserved for when someone in (or seeking) a seat of power does or says something Olbermann considered egregiously bad. During the final weeks of the 2008 Presidential Campaign, this became a more regular segment called "Campaign Comment". 2010 introduced "Quick Comments", which were shorter and more frequent and which evolved into "Tea Time". Friday shows sometimes have "Thurber Fridays", a reading of a James Thurber story (sometimes relevant to the week's news, sometimes not).
In early November 2010, Olbermann came under fire at MSNBC for donating $7,200 to political campaigns without first getting permission from the network. He was suspended indefinitely at first, but following intense controversy the subsequent weekend it was announced that he would be reinstated after only two broadcasts.
Suddenly, and without warning, Countdown was canned on January 21, 2011, and Olbermann left the network. This was the same week when cable TV operator Comcast acquired MSNBC from GE, and Olbermann had previously expressed a negative tone toward Comcast. He then joined Current Media, and Countdown relaunched on Current TV on June 20th.
On March 30, 2012, Olbermann was fired from Current TV. Legal action, according to Olbermann, will be happening soon. It's unclear what he plans to do with the show in the future, though it seems he hasn't ruled out another channel.
Please use the Rule of Cautious Editing Judgement when adding examples to this page.
- Arch Enemy: Bill O Reilly and Glenn Beck.
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: The list of "Muslim Countries Obama Continues To Refuse To Bomb (So Far)" in the parody of Obama Muslim conspiracy theories:
- Backhanded Apology: He did this in his statement on Twitter about his firing from Current TV:
"I'd like to apologize to my viewers and my staff for the failure of Current TV."
- Berserk Button: Hard to pick just one. Keith is infamous for his bad temper and perfectionism, which has cost him a lot of friendships. He gets worked up about pretty much everything, from bad plays in a baseball game to horrible political scandals, which sometimes makes it difficult to take all of his anger seriously.
- Big Good: To Keith, this would probably be Barack Obama. Most emphasized during the 2008 campaign, but still standing. Others to him would be Bernie Sanders, Russ Feingold, and Elizabeth Warren.
- Although he rails at Obama too in Special Comments, mostly about his kowtowing to the right re his handling of health care and the budget crisis.
- Camera Abuse: Throwing paper at it Once an Episode. He usually misses, but it smashes anyway.
- Catch Phrase: So many. In order of appearance in the show;
- "Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?"
- And now the update on the President's fifty ongoing scandals...Buuuuusssshhhed!
- In 2009, it became "And now, because they're not going away any time soon, the update on the previous President's fifty running scandals...Stilll mmmmmBusssshhhhed!" Now retired.
- Let's play Oddball! (a takeoff on Chris Matthews' "Let's play Hardball", followed by a recording of Matthews' distinctive laugh)
- (Phweeeee...) No, it's not your water coming to a boil; it's time for our nightly checkup on the something for nothing crowd...it's Tea Time!
- "That woman... is an IDIOT!" (in reference to Sarah Palin)
- Get out your pitchforks and torches, it's time for...
- Tonight's... Worst... Person... In The Worrrrrrllllllllld!
- Finally tonight, as promised, a Special Comment...
- How dare you, sir!
- You're WRONG!
- Resign, Sir!
- And that's Countdown for tonight, the xxxxth day since President Bush declared Mission Accomplished in Iraq. Good night and good luck. ("...the previous President declared..." since January 20, 2009)
- And that's Countdown for tonight, the xxxxth day since Republicans took control of the House of Representatives. MR. BOEHNER, WHERE ARE THE JOBS?
- Give yourself a round of applause for getting through another day of this crap.
- Good Night, and Good Luck. 
- Channel Hop: MSNBC to Current TV.
- Clip Show: A couple were done, mostly when his father was in the hospital, and at least one hour-long episode of his Special Comments. Also, the obligatory "Best of the Year" reels for the holidays.
- Media Research Failure: There were times that someone thought they were the "Worst Person in the World" when they just got bronze or silver. One example that stands out would be Rep. Marsha Blackburn, who he named bronze, who proceeded to boast that he named her "the worst person in the world", so guess what? he put her on the list as bronze again. The bronze is sometimes reserved for minor offenses such as amusing typos and translation mistakes; Olbermann gave himself the bronze before. Most people finding themselves publicly displayed on a list of "worst persons", however, tend not to appreciate the joke.
- Deadpan Snarker: Newsweek editor Richard Wolffe, who showed up just so Olbermann could set him up to snark on the GOP.
- Keith himself, in many of the "Worst Person" segments and some of the lighter Special Comments, particularly the Campaign Comments. Certainly his "Thanks, Dick" and Rocket-powered Rollerskates lines qualified as snark, as was the reaction to Doug Feith's Pre-war consequences memo.
- This attitude also leads to nicknames for the Fox News Channel and his right-wing rivals (see "Detractor Nickname" below) and the occasional indulgence in a mocking/sarcastic Evil Laugh when the right wing accuses the left one of something particularly supervillain-ish.
- Depth Deception: In Real Life. The reason Keith doesn't drive is that he hit his head on a subway door, and now has no depth perception when moving over 15 mph.
- Detractor Nickname: Too many, created and used by him, and often adopted by his fans.
- Bill O'Reilly: Billo, Bill Orally, Bill O RLY, Billo The Clown, Ted Baxter, The Big Giant Head, The Frank Burns of News, Phineas T. Bluster.
- Sean Hannity: The Walrus, The Manatee (this one was actually coined by John Cleese and adopted by Keith).
- Rush Limbaugh: Comedian Rush Limbaugh, Boss Limbaugh, Orly Taitz Limbaugh, Tokyo Rose Limbaugh.
- Ann Coulter: Coultergeist, Pirate Annie.
- Glenn Beck: Televangelist Glenn Beck, Harold Hill, Larry "Lonesome" Rhodes Beck, "Becky", "This Yutz".
- Sarah Palin: Sister Sarah, The Half-Term Governor of Alaska, The Half Governor, The Human Oil Slick, Saranoia, "That woman is an idiot", The Quitter, Bendy-Straws.
- John Boehner: John of Orange.
- L. Brent Bozell III (head of the right-leaning Media Research Center, a frequent Olbermann critic): Humorist Brent Bozell, Redbeard the Pirate, Bozell the Clown.
- The Republican Party: The Party of No, The GO"BP".
- Fox News Channel: Fox Noise, Fixed News, Fixed Noise, Cluster Fox, Faux News, The Political Whorehouse That Is Fox News.
- His right-wing critics often refer to Keith himself as Bathtub Boy (circa John Gibson) and Keith Overbite (circa Mark Levin).
- According to MSNBC's John Gibson, Olbermann did not want to cover the Monica Lewinsky scandal, saying it was not news. Gibson had to do the show for him, while Keith stayed home and took a bath.
- One of his most recent ones is referring to Rupert Murdoch as Palpatine. Promptly apologized when somebody using the name @EmperorPalpatine tweeted a claim to be offended by the comparison. He continues to "mistakenly" mix the two up, then apologize to the Emperor.
- Did Not Do the Research: Cropped up due to the nature of the program (you're there for the commentary, not the news items). Has copped to it a few of times, and promptly made the appropriate corrections, however. Once named himself among the Worst Persons in the World for such a faux pas, so to his credit, he sometimes makes a point to acknowledge when he gets something wrong.
- Drinking Game: Take one shot every time he calls someone a "racist" during a show, and you'll end up quite drunk.
- Dueling Shows: To The O'Reilly Factor. Almost literally!
- Enemy Mine: Keith sprang to Billo's defence when it was rumored that Rupert Murdoch had muzzled him. "Solidarity, Brother Bill! Free yourself from your corporate shackles! SOLIDARITY!!"
- Also, unlike Rachel Maddow who likes the sport, he shares frequent enemy Glenn Beck's hatred of soccer.
- When Keith was suspended in November 2010 for not clearing campaign contributions with the network, right-wing pundits Jonah Goldberg and William Kristol and recently fired CNN newsman Rick Sanchez, all of whom Olbermann has had on his Worst Persons list, actually defended Olbermann and attacked MSNBC for the policy.
- Every Episode Ending: "I'm Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck."
- X Days Since...
- During the Current version of the show, he also added "Congratulations for getting through another day of this crap." During the earlier days of the MSNBC version, it was "That's Countdown, thanks for being a part of it."
- Executive Meddling: The deal between MSNBC and FOX. Every person involved seems to have a different story about exactly what happened there, but whatever it was, it's over now!
- Fan Nickname: Fans use Keith's and invent their own.
- Fascinating Eyebrow
- Foe Yay: For a time during the 1990s, he dated his political nemesis, Laura Ingraham. Both Keith and Laura have attacked the other on their respective shows ever since. Just which partner would be a Heel would likely depend on your political ideology.
- Follow the Bouncing Ball: "Dear viewer, this is our new logo."
- Game of Nerds: Keith is a huge baseball fan and historian.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: Literally, in a hurricane of euphemisms when interviewing the ShitMyDadSays guy.
- Ever since Jon Stewart's epic Go **** Yourselves choir song Keith substitutes "What Jon Stewart said!" whenever he needs a Cluster F-Bomb of his own.
- Keith once used footage from CSPAN with cursing senators as justification for showing the footage uncensored — since they can't exactly go after him for showing live footage of the United States Senate, even if they're cussing left and right.
- He expressed sheer joy that the new British government included a guy called Ed Balls and mentioned his name as often as possible that segment.
- Olbermann no doubt greatly regrets that he was on vacation when the Tea Party first came to national prominence, and missed out on participating in the initial MSNBC barrage of "teabagging" jokes.
- At Current, Keith is a bit more unbridled and has taken to saying "God damn" a lot.
- Godwin's Law: Is no stranger to comparing certain people he disagrees with to Nazis and Fascists, in fact he does uses this quite a lot, once calling President Bush a 'Fascist' after he commuted Scooter Libby's sentence during a Special Comment, and he's done this to a lot of people he's criticized.
- A Good Name for a Rock Band: "If there isn't a band called Crossing the Sex Line by next week, someone is asleep at the switch." — June 30, 2009, on a quote by South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford.
- Gray Eyes: "gray, hint of blue - but gray"
- Guest Host: Several. Both he and Rachel Maddow started out this way before getting their own shows.
"Soon, soon my plans will be complete! Mwahahahaha!"
Bill O'Reilly: I have never mentioned the man's name in my life and will never mention it.
- Homage: Keith uses Edward R. Murrow's sign-off in homage; also, the theme is a remix of Beethoven's 9th, 2nd movement, which was the theme of The Huntley-Brinkley Report (precursor to NBC Nightly News). He also reads a story from James Thurber to end the week after his late father and Thurber's daughter asked him to.
- Ho Yay: Olbermann is the most popular subject (along with Jon Stewart) in the world of punditslash.
- I Always Wanted to Say That: On one Oddball segment about the birth of a baby elephant, he says "I always wanted to do this" and then shows the footage of the elephant walking with its mother while playing Baby Elephant Walk.
- Informed Ability: Any clip on YouTube titled "Keith Olbermann DESTROYS [insert Fox News commentator here]!!!" is usually too short and petty to be all that devastating.
- Insult to Rocks: When O'Reilly did a panel for Newsmax, claimed by him to be a de facto Ponzi scheme, Olbermann said that this was beneath even him; two days later, he named himself third-worst person in the world... for insulting Newsmax, following legal threats over his use of the actual phrase "pyramid scheme."
- Large Ham: Olbermann, sometimes intentional and sometimes not. Probably comes from being a sportscaster.
- Mood Whiplash: Some of the segues from Oddball/Time Marches On back to news content before the commercial break can be pretty jarring.
- The Nicknamer
- Not So Different: Got rather annoyed when the "Rally to Restore Sanity" equated his furor to Fox News. He still toned down the vitriol by removing the "Worst Person In the World" segment temporarily.
- Ominous Pipe Organ: Complete with Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor, for "Worst Person in the World". Dropped when Olbermann felt the day's Worst was really Egregious.
- Sometimes substituted with other music that he considers thematically appropriate to whatever offense the "winner" committed. This is a recent trend for "Worst Persons" that Olbermann considers to have done something genuinely bad, but not Egregious enough to forgo comedy altogether. For example, when Rupert Murdoch is the day's Worst Person (not an uncommon occurrence), he plays the Imperial March. (See Detractor Nickname section above for the context.)
- One of Us: If September 19 is on a weekday, he will give a Shout-Out that it's International Talk Like a Pirate Day.
- Parenthetical Swearing: Keith can make the word 'sir' sound unprintable.
- Pet the Dog: Despite his despise of Republicans, he seems sometimes to have a relative soft spot for his ex, Laura Ingraham, despite her being O'Reilly's replacement host. He once compared her favorably to Glenn Beck and Brian Kilmeade on a "worst persons" segment they shared together saying, among other things, she wasn't an idiot. They still attack each other, but he sometimes doesn't seem to despise her as much as most of most of his political opposites, and he also condemned Ed Schultz on Twitter for calling her a "right-wing talk slut". Note that this did not once stop him from saying she "hated the troops".
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: While at MSNBC, he was the Red Oni to Rachel Maddow's Blue Oni.
- The Rival: O'Reilly, Beck, Limbaugh, Murdoch, Bush, Cheney, Palin, Bachmann, Cain, Perry, Gingrich, Levin, Gibson, and Coulter are the biggest. Sometimes it seems reciprocated, sometimes not; O'Reilly acts aloof and tries not to give him the time of day, Beck, Levin, Gibson, and Coulter make fun of him frequently, and the others are somewhere in the middle on that.
- Scandalgate: Every story in the (now retired) "Bushed" and "Still Bushed" segments and several others outside it, often to the point of (intentional) ridiculousness.
- Screwed by the Network: He was presumably a little too left-wing for even MSNBC, although his problems with MSNBC president Phil Griffin are somewhat infamous.
- Self-Deprecation: When Bill O'Reilly circulated a petition to have him fired, Olbermann promptly signed the petition himself on-air, and got the hosts of all the other MSNBC shows to do the same.
- He's also named himself the Bronze in "Worst Person in the World" a couple of times after making a particularly bad on-air error.
- In the aftermath of his November 2010 suspension, Keith was visibly sheepish during his return to the show, and made a remark to the effect of, "I'd have expected viewers' vocal support and cheering to be directed to other high profile figures, like Chilean miners!" in-effect claiming he didn't deserve to be cheered on so loudly.
- Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: His rants can get there.
- Shout-Out: 1.21.11 - Keith's been "future endeavored" by NBC.
- Take That: The purpose of the "Worst Persons in the World" segment, which went temporarily defunct after Jon Stewart's rally made him realize the segment had become a platform for anger rather than satire as originally intended. Also the recipient of a pretty great one from Ben Affleck on an episode of SNL. And about as good a one from Jon Stewart.
- Actually Pretty Funny: His reaction to these lampoonings. He replayed both on his own show.
- Take That Me: Having a Worst Person in the World every single episode seems to lampshade Olbermann's Large Ham tendencies, and on one occasion (after the Jon Stewart lampoon mentioned above), he placed himself on that list, and has done so a few other times as well.
- Talk Like a Pirate: Whenever he quotes Rupert Murdoch. And when James Murdoch got his first Worst in 2010, he got the voice too.
- Ten-Minute Retirement: His indefinite suspension for making political donations without asking permission ended up lasting a total of two days.
- Torches and Pitchforks: He would introduce "Worst Persons" with "Get out your pitchforks and torches", and the title of his recent book, a collection of special comments, worst persons, etc., is Pitchforks and Torches. Funnily enough, many of the people named in this segment are being criticized because he thinks they're using violent imagery in invective.
- Weirdness Magnet: A much higher than average number of Oddball segments come from Florida or India. See also Widget Series below.
- Who Writes This Crap?: Several times, but the August 2, 2010 Oddball segment had Keith catching a factual error in a story about a giant sandwich, causing him to mutter under his breath "That's not Latin America, who wrote this?"
- Widget Series: Olbermann's "weird news" segments includes something odd happening in Japan on a relatively frequent basis.
- Viewers are Morons: Replacing "Worst Person in the World" with "Worst Person in the World (Not Really)," which was meant to become something less strong, as though all objections were from people taking the blatant hyperbole seriously.
- YouTube: At least one segment of Oddball/Time Marches On usually features video from YouTube; also,
mostall Special Comments wind up there as soon as they air.
- You Make Me Sic: A significant portion of "batting practice" on Twitter was spent joking about typos in incoming tweets. (One won Tweet of the Day when a critic called him Ken.)
- Respectfully appropriated from Edward R. Murrow.
- (But really, why are you surprised?)