On initial review, the metaphor sounded ridiculous. There was Keith Olbermann, fired from his much-hyped, short-lived gig on Current TV, speaking with David Letterman on Tuesday night, characteristically bombastic in a televised mea sorta culpa.
"It's my fault that it didn't succeed in the sense that I didn't think the whole thing through," Mr. Olbermann said on CBS' "Late Show," discussing his dismissal from the avowedly liberal cable network less than a year into a five-year, $50 million contract.
"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."
"You're the chandelier?" Mr. Letterman asked.
Yes, Mr. Olbermann replied.
And there you have it: Keith Olbermann, television's Samson Self-Agonistes, an Anchor Without a Desk, likening himself to an ultra-luxe, too-precious household decoration. In a fridge full of Duff beer, I am the Cristal!
The immodest, self-serving comparison prompted a series of snarky Twitter bon mots: "OLBERMANN CHANDELIER now available at Ikea," wrote television writer and Vanity Fair magazine contributor Nell Scovell. "Combine with POMPÜS DINING TABLE and SMÜGG CHAIRS."
"Keith Olbermann says he's a 10 million dollar chandelier," wrote Warren Holstein, a New York City-based standup comedian. "Mitt Romney offers to buy him, hang him and turn him off."
"Fragile?" wrote conservative commentator S.E. Cupp.
Ms. Cupp is on to something. While Mr. Olbermann's statement sounds ridiculous, it actually makes a lot of sense. Consider:
Chandeliers look down from above: No matter who is in the room — presidents and kings, diplomats and oligarchs, Las Vegas convention attendees and high school kids on prom night — chandeliers forever dangle overhead, superior to one and all. Much like Mr. Olbermann, whose condescending, sanctimonious broadcasting style is best encapsulated by his signature, "how-dare-YOU-sir" Special Comments — most notably one in which he took New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg to task not only for what he saw as heavy-handed treatment of Occupy Wall Street protesters, but also for allowing the 59th Street Bridge to be closed for the filming of a "Batman" movie. Because both of those things are totally worth the high-minded outrage.
Chandeliers are brittle: Throw a rock at one. Watch it break. Much like Mr. Olbermann's delicate ego and fractured career arc, which encompasses four separate acrimonious network departures — ESPN, Fox Sports, MSNBC, Current TV — and counting.
Chandeliers are a pain to work with: Ever tried to dust and clean an ornate chandelier? Or fix a broken bulb on one? Not fun. Mr. Olbermann's network history is littered with feuds with bosses, co-workers and rival broadcasters (most notably Fox News' Bill O'Reilly), super-heated verbal eruptions (memorably against then-Massachusetts Senate candidate Scott P. Brown), unreasonable demands and general workplace fussiness (see the book "Those Guys Have All the Fun," an oral history of ESPN). When News Corp overlord Rupert Murdoch fires you for being — direct quote — "crazy," that says something.
Chandeliers are mostly for show: They don't actually provide much light. Illumination-wise, you're better off with a cheap torch lamp from Ikea. Likewise, for all of the ballyhoo surrounding Mr. Olbermann's every career move, ESPN, Fox and MSNBC are doing just fine without him — in fact, the latter network's ratings reportedly jumped 10 percent in the year following the anchor's departure.
$10 million chandeliers are vastly overpriced: And so is Mr. Olbermann — especially if he makes good on his threat to sue for the unpaid balance of his contract. In his Letterman appearance, he revealed with a smirk that he's hired the same lawyer that squeezed a reported $45 million severance package out of NBC for Conan O'Brien.
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