By Ken Tucker
Updated November 09, 2010 at 12:00 PM EST

Keith Olbermann began his Tuesday-night return to Countdown with a shot of his empty desk. He shuffled into view and said, “What’s new?” Back from a suspension last week by MSNBC for making political donations, Olbermann came out swinging. Among his other segments, he provided guest Michael Moore an ample platform to critique the interview Olbermann’s parent network, NBC, conducted with former president George W. Bush.

Olbermann said some have claimed this was all a publicity stunt. (For the record, I wrote that the suspension and its cessation was “nicely timed for a lot of publicity,” a dart aimed at Olbermann’s corporate masters.) “This was not a publicity stunt,” he said. Then the host added, his voice raising in mock fury, that if he’d known he’d get this much attention, “I would have done this years ago!”

Olbermann referred to his suspension as “my little adventure” and as “just my luck: [a] four-day weekend after the World Series is over.”

He devoted his final segment to a series of apologies to viewers, praising the self-regulating “transparency” of his donation-giving as something that could then be debated, and played jokes made about his plight from Jay Leno and Jon Stewart. Olbermann described Stewart’s gibes as “tape-measure home runs” that he clearly savored. Indeed, is there no greater pleasure any public figure of any political persuasion seems to take these days than being ridiculed by King of All Political Media Stewart?

Stewart will appear on The Rachel Maddow Show on Thursday night.

The blending of news/commentary and comedy/commentary is getting blend-ier all the time. Olbermann devoted a tedious segment to an extended parody of those on the right who claim that President Obama is “a secret Muslim…with a dream of a Muslim America.”

Despite that lapse, it was good to have ol’ Keef back on the air; who else is going to refer to Michele Bachmann as “a darker-haired Tracy Flick”?

Twitter: @kentucker