Exclusive: Why Countdown With Keith Olbermann Has Been Broadcasting From A Dark Place

Regular viewers of Current TV’s Countdown with Keith Olbermann may have noticed that the progressive newshour has gone dark this week. I don’t mean that host Keith Olbermann has taken to quoting Sylvia Plath and wearing out the grooves on his My Chemical Romance records, I mean he has literally been broadcasting from a dark place. Early on in Monday’s show, technical problems beset the program, and since then, Olbermann has been hosting his show from what appears to be an endless black void. Mediaite has confirmed that Olbermann has not been confined to an interdimensional limbo, nor is he broadcasting from inside Rush Limbaugh‘s head.

I missed Monday’s episode, so when I tuned in Tuesday to see Olbermann lighting a candle at the top of the show, gaping black maw of eternity behind him, I figured it was some in-joke that I had missed the setup to. As it turns out, an on-air technical mishap the night before had forced the host to change locations. Here’s where the problem started, and Olbermann’s candle-lighting gag:

Since then, Olbermann has continued to host the show with that black background, and has taken to cracking wise about the low-tech milieu, making copious references to the DuMont Network. Although born of necessity, the look is oddly, enigmatically compelling, like a living black-velvet Elvis painting, or a newscast from some alienated sci-fi dystopia.

Even more mysterious is the fact that no one seems to have noticed. There was no mention of the change on Olbermann’s Twitter feed, so apparently, his fans took it in stride as well as he did. Maybe it’s my fascination with behind-the-scenes minutiae, but not knowing what could possibly force a 21st century television personality to broadcast from the inside of a sensory deprivation tank was just driving me nuts.

Well, mystery solved. According to Current TV President David Bohrman, “The facility we lease for the production of Countdown has had a series of technical problems. Monday a dimmer rack overheated and blew out the lights, forcing the crew to move to a different part of the set.”

It probably is just me, but I find it amazing that it looks like Olbermann is at the very edge of the universe, when he’s really just a few feet away from his usual set. I’m also fascinated by the fact that the desk Martin Bashir teases his show from looks like it’s a picture on the wall of Tamron Hall‘s studio. No, that’s actually Martin Bashir in there!

According to Bohrman, the change might just become permanent. “They may stay there moving forward,” he told me, via email. “We are discussing this new look.”

So, Countdown fans, here’s your chance to weigh in. Should Keith Olbermann return to his boilerplate cable news set, or continue to boldly go where no cable newser has gone before?

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