MSNBC Bolsters O’Donnell in Wise Lineup Shuffle

Leave it to the Huffington Post to dramatically overstate MSNBC’s latest talent shuffle, under the blaring headline “MSNBC Announces Major Lineup Changes.” Really? Who got fired?

Nobody, it turns out. The big news is that the channel is flopping Ed Schultz and Lawrence O’Donnell — moving them to 8 and 10 p.m., respectively, with Rachel Maddow staying perched in the middle — which happens to make a good deal of sense.

Love or hate O’Donnell and Keith Olbermann — who took his act to the same timeslot on Current TV — their shows are remarkably similar. Both come at issues in much the same way, and sometimes even the order of topics is strikingly alike. Given the competition at 8 p.m. with CNN’s Anderson Cooper now in that hour too, it was virtually a certainty that some of Olbermann’s audience would wind up cannibalizing MSNBC’s opposite him.

Schultz, by contrast, is a blustery populist, and offers a starker alternative (if a more obtuse one) to Olbermann. But not every talkradio host can make the transition to television, and the Schultz experiment has gone on long enough to suggest he works far better in the first medium than the second.

Meanwhile, O’Donnell — who had been airing at 10 p.m. before Olbermann bolted — has an opportunity to retain more of Maddow’s audience with his return to that slot.

So when MSNBC Prez Phil Griffin said in the network’s statement announcing the shift, which takes effect next week, “This move will strengthen the flow of our programming throughout the evening,” he got it half right. Moving O’Donnell will almost surely improve the flow from Maddow’s show into the 10 o’clock hour.

As for “The Ed Show,” he’s on his own. As he probably should be.



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