Keith Olbermann is ‘The Boy in the Bubble’: We watch, because we’re paid to

Ruth Graham Contributor
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Last week I made a good-faith effort to find things to love about Keith Olbermann. Good thing I got that out of the way, because this week was rough.

FRIDAY, AUGUST 20: Olbermann often indulges in ridiculous small-beans bragging. Tonight, a new low: He proudly announced that a clip of a past Special Comment made an online video promoter’s list of “top” videos in the UK. “Our thanks, first off, to some unlikely viewers. The video of Monday‘s Special Comment about the Park 51 Community Center has reached number four on‘s list of the top viral videos in the United Kingdom.” Next, he’ll be bragging that his great-uncle’s nursing home lists “Countdown” among its top 25 favorite programs to keep on in the background at the rec center when there aren’t any “Andy Griffith” reruns on.

By the way, that list Keith is so proud of is currently led by videos of a bulldog watching “The Family Guy” and a dancing panda. Keith, you’re going to have to get a LOT cuter to rise above #4. Or at the very least turn your hosting duties over to an adorable baby or kitten.

MONDAY, AUGUST 23: Today’s show was guest-hosted by Lawrence O’Donnell. Wrong direction, Keith.

TUESDAY, AUGUST 24: What a weird show. Olbermann opened with an introduction in which he explained the concept of “the Overton window,” which, as he put it, “is the term that describes the ideas you can pitch in public without being considered nuts.” Interesting concept! It almost rings a bell…Oh, that’s right, “The Overton Window” is also the title of Glenn Beck’s best-selling novel published in June. I’m sure that’s just a coincidence.

The award for Most Thankless Job has to go to whoever does the booking for “Countdown.” Tonight, a real coup: They found a folksy Ohio small-business owner who just happened to agree with Keith Olbermann on every single issue facing the country right now.

Tax cuts? She’s against ‘em!

The stimulus? Worked great!

FDA regulations? More, please!

Health care reform? A boon to business!

Now, if future technology allows it, Olbermann will obviously be happy just interviewing himself over and over. “Keith, what do you think about President Chelsea Clinton’s plan to raise the top marginal tax to 92%?” “Well, Clone Keith, I’m for it! With more on this, please welcome Zombie Howard Fineman.”

In the meantime, we have this kind of jury-rigged mutual admiration society in which Olbermann only interacts with MSNBC contributors hired to agree with him (like not-technically-a-zombie-yet Howard Fineman), and “real people” who have been carefully vetted to agree with him, like this carefully screened Ohio restaurateur.

In Keith’s world, “The Boy in the Bubble” was not a tragic tale about the consequences of being cut off from the real world, but a heart-warming tale about a boy living the dream. Congratulations, Keith. You’re living the dream.

WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 25: Tonight, the big news in Olbermann-land was that Glenn Beck vaguely alluded to Olbermann’s mother. Olbermann accused Beck of “mak[ing] a joke about my dead mother,” but it was nothing more that some light banter about how no one watches “Countdown” except his mom. Olbermann teased this crime against Olbermannity THREE times before unveiling the clip.

It was so mild in substance that he was forced to follow it by saying, “Even if he didn‘t know my mother passed away last year, what happened to that thing he said about ‘Leave the families out of it’? Fraud.” Pretty rich coming from a guy who, not two weeks ago, dredged up Bill O’Reilly’s supposed childhood abuse in the noble cause of defending Jennifer Aniston’s honor. (In Googling around to find this clip, I also came across this 2009 blog entry called “Keith Olbermann Tried to Make Fun of My Mom.”)

And Keith, who is being more disrespectful, the guy who makes a mild joke about a mom watching TV, or the guy who teases a segment about his own “dead mother” three times to gin up a fake controversy?

THURSDAY, AUGUST 26: We end this very slow news week with an even slower news day. Olbermann patted himself on the back for *possibly* speeding the resolution of a small-claims case in Michigan. Then he awarded the Worst Persons awards to two small-town criminals, Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, and a fake shark.

You might be thinking, “What a confusing paragraph! There must be more to these stories. He couldn’t have given the top Worst Person to a fake shark.” Well, you obviously don’t watch “Countdown.” And that means you have something to be grateful for.