SBD/August 27, 2013/Media

"Olbermann" Debut Praised For Format, But Criticized For Attack On Reporters

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Olbermann was critical of modern journalists in his opening segment
"Olbermann" debuted last night on ESPN2, opening with a segment titled "As I Was Saying," in which host Keith Olbermann riffs on one of the day's sports topics. Olbermann in his opening segment referenced N.Y. Daily News reporter Manish Mehta recently tweeting about Jets coach Rex Ryan potentially losing his job, noting New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie "chimed in" on the topic. Olbermann: "By tomorrow, it could be the president, and 48 seconds into a show I promised wouldn't be about politics, I'm talking about the governor and the president!" He continued, "While I don’t like Rex Ryan, he must be wondering -- even in this time of media madness where controversy has replaced reporting, and at least one dying medium is doing everything short of armed robbery to get a dollar out of you -- Rex Ryan must be wondering what on God's gang-green earth is happening to him." Olbermann: "Reporting is dead. Long live making something out of nothing. If you can instigate controversy, if you can sell just a few more newspapers to a world that no longer wants them, all your sins will be forgiven." He was then joined by fellow returning ESPN talent Jason Whitlock, who said, "As they say on 'The Wire,' you only do two days at ESPN: The day you leave and the day you come back." Laughing, Olbermann said, "Right back at ya." Mavericks Owner Mark Cuban also was a guest on the debut episode, telling Olbermann, "Congratulations on the show. Welcome to the Skip Bayless network." The broadcast also included a segment called "Time Marches On," featuring quirky videos from around the world, and a highlights package branded "Keith Lights" ("Olbermann," ESPN2, 8/26).

REVIEWS ARE IN: VARIETY's Brian Lowry wrote Olbermann "amused himself with highlights, funny videos, a modified 'Worst Persons of the World' segment featuring sports figures, and a lot of flashbacks to Olbermann’s early bad-mustache days at ESPN." Olbermann "seemed to find largely the right tone, mixing sports and comedy, taking advantage of his writing skills and positioning himself as a sports-inflected counterweight to latenight talk." But there is "room to tinker with the balance -- fewer goofy highlights, say, and more on issues like performance-enhancing drugs, which would capitalize on Olbermann’s journalistic chops without deviating from the basic formula" (VARIETY.com, 8/26). THE DAILY BEAST's Lloyd Grove wrote the debut episode was "damned entertaining," and a "jampacked hour of well-produced television." Olbermann has "set expectations pretty high for his five-night-a-week burlesque, satire, and sports-news program." It is "ostensibly a show about sports, but really a journey into its namesake's psyche," and is "nothing if not self-referential" (THEDAILYBEAST.com, 8/27). But DEADLINE.com wrote the issues Olbermann discussed "mostly were East Coast-specific and not really controversial." Olbermann "didn’t get into any of the recent headline-making stories" involving ESPN. There was a "bare-bones set and no splashy graphics," hinting that ESPN is "content to put the focus solely on" the host. The results were "pretty dull." Whitlock "provided the hour's best moments" (DEADLINE.com, 8/26). ZAP2IT.com's Andrea Reiher writes, "We don't think we'll be setting our DVR every night" (ZAP2IT.com, 8/27). SI.com's Richard Deitsch wrote the goal of "Olbermann" was to "provide a significant differentiator" to "SportsCenter" and FS1's "Fox Sports Live." It is that, "for sure." The new program is "as single personality-driven an ESPN show as they've ever done." Deitsch: "You like him, you'll like it. You don't, adios" (TWITTER.com, 8/26).

TWITTER REAX
: The AP's Ralph Russo wrote, "Tough for Olbermann to be railing about news outlets creating news out of pseudo-controversy on his new ESPN show." Newsday's Tom Rock tweeted, "Keith Olbermann rails on reporters for asking the wrong questions on a network that decided it wouldn't ask any. #Frontline." SI.com's Jimmy Traina: "Keith Olbermann starts his show by ripping the Daily News for creating a fake story. Someone alert Keith about Jaworski & Kaepernick." VMW Communications Owner Vince Wladika wrote, "What ESPN producer/'journalist' decided to lead with Olbermann ripping @NYDNsports while ESPN/Frontline story still out there? #espnfail." Sports Media Watch's Paulsen tweeted, "So 'Olbermann' is basically 'Countdown III: This Time with Sports.' It's not bad, but would have been nice to see him do something fresher." CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman: "enjoyed world's worst people in sports @KeithOlbermann. but shouldnt espn execs contend?" Awful Announcing's Matt Yoder tweeted, "It's kinda weird to be reminded that Keith Olbermann was an enjoyable TV personality before he started foaming at the mouth every night." N.Y. Post's Bart Hubbuch: "I just remembered how much I detest Keith Olbermann. What a gasbag. I give his horrible new show 6 months."
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