“I don’t think loud is what it’s about. I get loud a couple times a year,” so says Lawrence O’Donnell, the newest primetime personality on MSNBC, home of Keith Olbermann, Chris Matthews and Ed Schultz, all excitable personalities.
O’Donnell’s upcoming MSNBC program, The Last Word, will bow Sept. 27 in the 10- p.m. time slot following Countdown with Keith Olbermann.
In the cable news landscape populated by big - loud - personalities, O’Donnell vows that his program will not be another shout-fest, although he admitted that the voluble The McLaughlin Group is among his favorite shows.
Being loud, says O’Donnell, is “what get’s you loved and it’s also what get’s you hated.”
“Cable news was branded that a number of years ago,” added Phil Griffin, president of MSNBC. “But if you watch most of our programming, I don’t think you get a lot of those moments.”
O’Donnell says his show will attempt to offer a “succinct” summary on the day’s events, and may even rip up the planned show to react to news that may get made on news programs earlier in the evening, an interview on Countdown or The O’Reilly Factor on Fox News, for instance.
“I’m at the beginning, middle of the creative process. I can’t tell you exactly what it will look like but it will be broadcast quality by Sept. 27,” said O’Donnell.
The Last Word will originate from MSNBC headquarters at 30 Rock in New York, although O’Donnell, who has written for The West Wing and has a comedy pilot in development at HBO, lives in Los Angeles.
“I actually don’t think it’s a good idea (to do the show in Los Angeles),” he said. “I think this network has a heart-beat and that heart-beat is in 30 Rock. There’s a team atmosphere. It’s collegial. When I go into that building I see Ed [Schultz], I might see Chris Matthews. I run into Rachel [Maddow]. It’s very, very important to the dynamic to have the whole team in one place.”
O’Donnell said the “last word” on his show - a closing editorial, of sorts - will mostly come from him, but he may hand over the final minutes to a guest, including a guest that does not share his political views.
“It could be someone that I agree with, that could be very likely,” he said. “Or it could be someone who I don’t agree with.”
O’Donnell and Griffin defended MSNBC’s primetime hosts, who are distinctly to the left of the conservative pundits on Fox News.
“I do think that it’s healthy if there’s a Fox there should be an MSNBC,” said Griffin. “I think we’re different than Fox in that they have a much more focused ideology and we don’t.”
O’Donnell pointed out that there are plenty of places to get down-the-middle news on broadcast television and PBS.
“The audience has voted on this,” said O’Donnell. “We can sit around and talk about what is the ideal place to be. Whenever we do that in cable news there seems to be an inclination to forget that Jim Lehrer is doing a program that is down the middle every night, Brian Williams is doing one. The audience has voted on what they want to see on cable in primetime. And you see that in Keith and Rachel’s’ success.”