Entertainment Weekly

Stay Connected

Subscribe

Advertise With Us

Learn More

Skip to content

Article

Obama, O'Reilly, Olbermann, oh boy!

Posted on

Billoreillyolbermann_l

This week, Bill O’Reilly announced he’s going to be Paul Revere in announcing news about the new Obama administration–literally, he’s calling himself Paul Revere, alerting the nation!–while Keith Olbermann made the argument for “Why the President-elect must prosecute torture.” (Olbermann’s argument sounds extreme only in context–that is, you rarely hear anyone say that on TV. But you can read about it in many places, including David Cole’s piece in the current New York Review of Books, and in Jane Mayers’ book The Dark Side.)

Billoreillyolbermann_l

Time-period rivals, Olbermann and O’Reilly are making 8 p.m. the place to go if you want sparky partisan politics other than Simon vs. That Judge Who’s Not Paula on Idol.

I wrote a measured view of The O’Reilly Factor and Countdown with Keith Olbermann, plus The Rachel Maddow Show and Hannity, in the new issue of EW. But an EW.com editor urged me to blog a bit further about this subject, so I’ll drop the sarcastic reference I made in the magazine piece about how The View is a trusted source of news (yes, Keith and Bill, it was sarcastic), and say I think Olbermann is, these days, far more dynamic a TV communicator than O’Reilly, whose tone and body-language make him look increasingly bored and dismissive.

Indeed, it’s the energy that Olbermann and his MSNBC lead-out, Rachel Maddow, bring to their shows that make them–politics aside for the moment–more compelling TV presences. A few years ago, I wrote a book with the title Kissing Bill O’Reilly, Roasting Miss Piggy, praising O’Reilly for his dramatic TV persona. Like everything else in television, however, things change; acts get old, new personalities come along and change the game. That’s just what Olbermann and Maddow have done. The MSNBC shows are livelier, punchier, and their guests are plucked from a wider range of politics, the media, and academia. (Last night, O’Reilly’s big guns were syndicated columnist Michelle Malkin, who as best I can tell qualifies as a pundit because she can deliver her hostility at Gatling-gun speed, and Geraldo Rivera because… well, because he can still bellow loudly enough to be heard through the moustache that now threatens to take over his face.)

More generally, though, I wonder: Do EW readers watch any of these shows regularly? Do you ever watch a show whose politics you don’t agree with, because you like the personality or energy of its host?

Indeed, it’s the energy that Olbermann and his MSNBC lead-out, Rachel Maddow, bring to their shows that make them–politics aside for the moment–more compelling TV presences. A few years ago, I wrote a book with the title Kissing Bill O’Reilly, Roasting Miss Piggy, praising O’Reilly for his dramatic TV persona. Like everything else in television, however, things change; acts get old, new personalities come along and change the game. That’s just what Olbermann and Maddow have done. The MSNBC shows are livelier, punchier, and their guests are plucked from a wider range of politics, the media, and academia. (Last night, O’Reilly’s big guns were syndicated columnist Michelle Malkin, who as best I can tell qualifies as a pundit because she can deliver her hostility at Gatling-gun speed, and Geraldo Rivera because… well, because he can still bellow loudly enough to be heard through the moustache that now threatens to take over his face.)

More generally, though, I wonder: Do EW readers watch any of these shows regularly? Do you ever watch a show whose politics you don’t agree with, because you like the personality or energy of its host?

Comments