×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Olbermann

Well-traveled host's ESPN2 show is tailored to his talents. As for how long that lasts....

With:

Host: Keith Olbermann

While Fox Sports 1 has been mounting a national alternative — including a talkshow that should even make Regis Philbin blushESPN has been gradually adding to its arsenal, signing former Foxsports.com columnist Jason Whitlock, numbers guru Nate Silver and Keith Olbermann, whose nightly sports program, “Olbermann,” made its ESPN2 debut Monday. Olbermann is a notoriously high-maintenance employee, and as the New York Times noted in a profile where everyone is still all smiles, he’s put many stops between now and his last ESPN gig 16 years ago. Still, he does bring a smart, playful approach to a sports space that seems increasingly simple-minded and blustery. So until he gets angry and quits, this ought to be pretty good.

Admittedly, Olbermann’s style — honed during all those years delivering “special comments” on MSNBC — translated into a sports context can feel a little bit like using a rhetorical bazooka to kill a housefly. Including Whitlock as a guest, he opened the show with nearly 20 minutes devoted to New York Jets coach Rex Ryan, skewering the media — and specifically the New York Daily News’ beat reporter, Manish Mehta — for creating a faux controversy around the injury to quarterback Mark Sanchez.

Yet Olbermann wasn’t wrong when he called this a “time of media madness, where controversy has replaced reporting.” And that’s especially true in terms of sports coverage, which caters to the loudest voices in sportstalk radio and those columnists willing to engage in the verbal equivalent of professional wrestling for a few minutes on “Around the Horn.”

Of course, ESPN is a major player in fostering that environment, and the network is also having its journalistic credentials questioned, having backed out of a “Frontline” documentary about the NFL and concussions for reasons that remain suspicious, given the network’s multi-billion-dollar investment in the league. While it’s the kind of target Olbermann would have found difficult to resist in another place, at another time, that particular controversy went overlooked in his first show. No sense biting the hand that feeds you right away, presumably.

Instead, 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. There was a solid interview with Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and the chat with Whitlock, which other than their exchange about race and sports — and Olbermann lauding New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie for badmouthing the Daily News’ Mehta — was as close to politics as the host ventured.

Still, Olbermann seemed to find largely the right tone, mixing sports and comedy, taking advantage of his writing skills (Sanchez has a “bruised right shoulder joint — by Spike Lee,” he quipped) and positioning himself as a sports-inflected counterweight to latenight talk.

“Olbermann” premiered coming out of U.S. Open tennis coverage, and while the host already looks pretty comfortable already, the program has a week or so to find its footage before the ripest of targets — the NFL, college football, the baseball playoffs — kick in after Labor Day. Certainly, there’s 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.

Olbermann closed with his signature tribute to Edward R. Murrow — “Good night, and good luck” — but given the modest rating demands on this secondary channel and how well the format suits him, he might not need much of the latter. As for just how many good nights the Olbermann/ESPN2 marriage has in it, with Olbermann, that’s always the several-million-dollar question.

Olbermann

(Series; ESPN2, Mon. Aug. 26, 11 p.m. ET)

Cast:

Host: Keith Olbermann

More TV

  • Ricky Gervais Golden Globes 2016

    Golden Globes: Ricky Gervais Returning as Host For Fifth Time

    Ricky Gervais is back. The comedian is returning as host of the Golden Globes for the fifth time. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association made the announcement Tuesday morning. “Once again, they’ve made me an offer I can’t refuse. But this is the very last time I’m doing this, which could make for a fun evening,” [...]

  • Disney Plus Technical Issues

    Disney Plus Users Complain of Login Problems, Service Errors on Launch Day

    Disney Plus opened its doors Tuesday — but some fans immediately encountered problems trying to access the streaming service. Multiple users on social media said they had trouble signing in to Disney Plus when it first went live, while others said they had problems accessing specific content or using features (like setting up a watch [...]

  • Joseph R. Ianniello, President and Acting

    CBS Sees Q3 Profit Drop on Increased Investment in Programming

    CBS Corp. said third quarter profit dropped as investments in new series for its linear and digital outlets and costs associated with its pending merger with Viacom Inc. overcame increases in revenue during the period. The New York owner of the CBS television network and the Showtime premium-cable service is expected to merger with corporate [...]

  • Another Drama Series About Austrian Empress

    Another Period Drama Series About Austrian Empress Sisi Is in the Works

    Another TV head-to-head is brewing with the announcement of a second period drama series about Austrian Empress Elisabeth II – known as Sisi – in the works. Germany’s Story House Pictures and Austria-based Satel Film, which made Netflix’s “Freud,” are collaborating on “Sisi,” a six-part drama that goes into production in 2020. News of the project [...]

  • Disney Plus Launches; Two Episodes of

    Two Episodes of 'The Mandalorian,' Other Originals to Drop This Week as Disney Plus Goes Live

    New episodes of Disney Plus original series dropped Tuesday as the streaming service went live in three countries, with second installments of “Star Wars” spinoff “The Mandalorian” and other shows set to become available just a few days later. Disney’s new direct-to-consumer service launched Tuesday in the U.S., Canada and the Netherlands, with company chief [...]

  • Carolyn McCall

    ITV Revenues Dip in ‘Uncertain Environment,’ but Content Sales Rise

    ITV revenues were down by 2% in the first nine months of 2019. CEO Carolyn McCall, who has set a strategy refresh in motion, said the U.K.-based broadcaster’s performance was in line with its expectations, adding that, “although the economic environment continues to be uncertain, we are making good progress in executing our strategy.” Total [...]

  • DANCING WITH THE STARS - "Boy

    Sean Spicer Voted Off 'Dancing With the Stars'

    Sean Spicer will no longer appear on America’s television sets every Monday evening, at least as part of “Dancing With the Stars.” The former White House press secretary was voted off “DWTS” Monday night despite President Donald Trump’s earlier tweet urging the American people to vote for Spicer on ABC’s dancing competition show. The tweet [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content