Posted by: Jon Fine on September 09, 2008
I had ridiculous computer problems yesterday, which prevented me from weighing in on this in a timely fashion. But, speaking strictly as a viewer, the news that MSNBC will replace Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews as anchors of live political events means that we’ll go without some of the most entertaining television of this year.
I’m serious. They were a riot. The chemistry between Olbermann and Matthews was so patently unstable, so clearly off—and Olbermann’s body language so frequently seemed to telegraph serious discomfort--that you had the sense that anything could happen. You just had to sit around and wait for the smoke to gather and, then, finally, for something to explode. Which it did, often. I wondered a few weeks back on Twitter when they’d come to blows on-air. I doubt this a terribly original thought, or even particularly possible, given the genteel confines og a news set. But then I’d just seen this, which in the context of a news channel is a bit jarring:
Olbermann-Matthews was a sports talk radio thing dressed in political clothes: two hosts, apparent mutual antipathy, arguments, a jagged edge to the simplest interactions. And, by the way, I’ve got no problem with such a set-up, given that we’re talking about what’s essentially color commentary. Like sports, everyone on live political TV is working off the exact same fact-set, which is revealed to everyone at the same time.
I know, I know, Olbermann and Matthews will still be involved with MSNBC’s live political coverage, and frankly, good luck with trying to muzzle either while they’re on-air. Still, somehow, having the more sober-minded David Gregory in the driver’s seat means it Won’t Be The Same.
At least, you’ll still be able to watch Matthews say, on-air, whatever comes into his head at any given moment.
The media, entertainment and marketing worlds continue to shapeshift on a near-daily basis, as new forms arise and old assumptions erode. Where is it all going? No one really knows. But on this blog BusinessWeek’s media writers Tom Lowry and Ron Grover promise to provide ample helpings of scoop, provocation, and sharp analysis as they track and annotate this constantly changing terrain.