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O’Donnell’s Predictable About-Face on MSNBC

Apparently, I knew Lawrence O’Donnell’s mind better than he did.

In April, after he had spent weeks ably filling in for Keith Olbermann, I interviewed O’Donnell about the relationship between Hollywood and Washington and asked the former “The West Wing” producer whether he might consider hosting his own show on MSNBC.

Quoting from that column:

The modern cable news era has become a boom time for pundits,
“strategists” and partisan hacks, and O’Donnell concedes the Obama
presidency is “a fantastic time to do this kind of work.” Nevertheless,
he still considers MSNBC “a hobby, no matter how many hours of the day I
spend here,” and insists he feels “like George Plimpton all the time”
whenever stepping into the anchor/hosting role, referring to the late
role-playing literary journalist.

O’Donnell also told me that if MSNBC asked him to host a show, he wouldn’t be interested, preferring to focus on writing and producing.

For all that, I wasn’t particularly surprised by MSNBC’s announcement today that O’Donnell would take over the 10 p.m. hour, fleshing out a primetime lineup consisting — as Olbermann noted on Tuesday — of Olbermann followed by his two former fill-in hosts, Rachel Maddow and now O’Donnell.

The truth is there aren’t that many people with the chops to host a show (MSNBC’s Ed Schultz experiment is an ongoing example of that), making the likelihood that the channel would try to find a regular role for O’Donnell predictable. And now MSNBC will be original from 8-11 p.m. ET, instead of repeating Olbermann in the last hour.

Bringing in O’Donnell does signal one other thing: Olbermann’s considerable influence over MSNBC’s lineup — again, not a surprise, given his close relationship with channel prez Phil Griffin.

MSNBC has yet to set a date for the new program, but I suspect O’Donnell will be on before the midterm elections.

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