MSNBC is giving regular “Countdown with Keith Olbermann” fill-in host Lawrence O’Donnell the 10 p.m. hour, the network says.
O’Donnell will start developing the program immediately, though no format, title or start date has been set…
The move is a surprising one, as MSNBC has said as recently as October that it was happy with how the “Countdown” repeats have bee performing at 10 p.m.
Still, both CNN and Fox News have originals at 10 p.m., so rumors of an expansion into that hour are nothing new to MSNBC.
If you asked me to compile a list of possible candidates to host MSNBC at 10pm, Lawrence O’Donnell would be down near the bottom of it. Sure he’s been associated with MSNBC for 14 years. Yes, he kept Countdown alive and kicking while Olbermann was off the air after the death of his father. Yes, he’s the safe choice because you know what you’re going to get.
But he is also one of the most boring, most uninspiring choices MSNBC could have made. When MSNBC hired Maddow, they got someone on the rise and not part of the establishment who was generating a buzz and had outside followers that she could bring in to MSNBC. None of those things apply to Lawrence O’Donnell. He’s an “old democrat” long part of the establishment and not considered part of the new progressive movement that Maddow hangs out on. He has no meaningful following and though he is a “name” he has no inherent buzz surrounding him. And he is not likely to bring in fresh new viewers the way Maddow had.
All true, except potentially for the last line. What makes this choice intriguing in a way that no other “Countdown” retread could possibly be is one simple thing: When O’Donnell’s temper is triggered, he’s insane. Remember the time he went off on the late Cathy Seipp over public-school teachers and the blogosphere spent the next day or two laughing at his throbbing neck vein? Or the time he spent a segment screeching “liar” repeatedly while John O’Neill tried to get a word in edgewise? Or when he started barking at a GOP consultant about being a chickenhawk? Or just a few months ago, when he had a meltdown on “Morning Joe” over Marc Thiessen’s opinions on counterterrorism and Scarborough was actually forced to cut him off? “Scary Larry” is the very definition of an unhinged liberal when his Irish is up, which can be wildly entertaining if you’re in the mood. Hence my point up above about doing the show right. Is this going to be another Olby-esque hour of propaganda where a bunch of liberal analysts tell O’D what he wants to hear? Or are they going to do something smart and have on a bunch of conservative analysts to see just how far they can make Larry’s neck vein bulge? That would be worth watching. And clipping, and posting. Every night!
Exit question: So, who’ll be facing off with O’Donnell at 10 p.m. on Fox once Greta’s contract expires? Megyn Kelly? Glenn Beck? Exit answer: Surprise!