Olbermann on ‘Letterman’: Current Deal Was Doomed From the Start

Keith Olbermann (left) makes a point, and makes David Letterman laugh Tuesday on "Late Show" (Photo: CBS)

Fired firebrand Keith Olbermann says he first felt he’d made a mistake joining Current TV within 10 days of the start of his show on the Al Gore-owned cable channel last summer.

Olbermann’s experience with Current — the youthful, progressive cable channel Gore co-owns with businessman Joel Hyatt — ended last Friday when he was fired, ending a relationship that he now says was doomed practically from the get-go.

Olbermann, 53, talked about his firing for the first time (other than various tweets and other statements he issued over the weekend) Tuesday night on CBS’ “Late Show with David Letterman.”

In trying to explain what happened, Keith said, “I screwed up,” but he wasn’t admitting somehow that he fouled up and then got fired. Instead, the “screwing up” had to do with Keith misjudging the ability of Current to produce TV shows.

“All right, so do they, the Current TV people know what they’re doing?” Letterman asked. “It’s former Vice President Al Gore. Does he know what he’s doing on TV?”

“I screwed up,” Olbermann answered. “I screwed up really big on this. Let’s just start there. I thought we could do this. It’s my fault that it didn’t succeed in the sense that I didn’t think the whole thing through. I didn’t say, ‘You know, if you buy a $10 million chandelier, you should have a house to put it in. Just walking around with a $10 million chandelier isn’t going to do anybody a lot of good, and it’s not going to do any good to the chandelier.’ And then it turned out we didn’t have a lot to put the house on to put the chandelier in, or a building permit, and I, I should have known that. And it is, it is my fault at heart.”

“You’re the chandelier?” Letterman asked.

“I’m the chandelier,” Olbermann replied.

Olbermann then said he felt early on that the relationship would not work out in the long run. “Now, I’ve been in situations in my lifetime where the second I agreed to something, I got that sinking feeling in my stomach and I said to myself on those occasions, ‘Holy goodness, I’ve just made a huge mistake.’ Did that happen to you?” Letterman asked.

“It did,” Olbermann said. “And we even joked about it, if you recall, [last year] when I came out and did a Top Ten List … one of the great thrills of my life, and the last time I had fun on TV.”

Letterman then showed videotape of Keith reciting the “Top Ten Reasons to Watch the New ‘Countdown with Keith Olbermann’,” from last year. One of them was No. 2 “Better watch now because things could go wrong in a hurry!”

We happen to have that Olbermann Top Ten right here:
[iframe http://xfinitytv.comcast.net/tv/Late-Show-With-David-Letterman/90389/2017680664/David-Letterman—Keith-Olbermann-Top-Ten/embed 580 476]

Keith then revealed that he began to have his doubts about Current as far back as last July. His show, “Countdown,” debuted on Current last June 20. “I was thinking about [the possibility that the whole thing was going to turn out badly] as early as like last July,” he told Dave. “We’d been on the air about 10 days and they fired the guy who knew what he was doing who I worked for and I went, ‘Uh-oh’.”

He then said he feels he let down his fans and his staff. “I didn’t even get a chance to say goodbye to them let alone thank them for the work that they did with me,” he said. “I’m so proud of them because the show editorially was never better, but I let them down because the thing didn’t continue.”

Our take: The truth is, Keith never really addressed what went wrong or what specifically made him feel last July that the whole thing would eventually go awry — his “chandelier” analogy notwithstanding. In the days since his firing, plenty of stories have come out citing sources at Current who are telling tales indicating that Keith was impossible to work with, and battling with everyone from his bosses (who he reportedly refused to talk to) to the drivers who drove him home at night.

On “Letterman,” Olbermann indicated the whole dispute will likely wind up in court, principally because he feels Current owes him money. Current evidently disagrees.

Stay tuned — this story is far from over.

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