updated 12/27/2005 10:35:22 AM ET 2005-12-27T15:35:22

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KEITH OLBERMANN, MSNBC HOST:  The year 2005.  Three hundred sixty five more days that didn't seem real then and don't seem real now.  I want all of you to get up out of your chairs.  The year of the rooster in the Chinese calendar and the news gods bring us what?  A hermaphrodite rooster that lays yoke-free eggs.  That's the kind of year it's been.  2005.  The year of the exit from escaping the press .

GEORGE W. BUSH, U.S. PRESIDENT:  I was trying to escape.

OLBERMANN:  To escaping a wedding.

You look at that and say, is she going to run?  Or do something?

From no escape from questions.

SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  Again, David, this is a question relating to an ongoing investigation.

OLBERMANN:  To a thriller of an escape from the child molestation charges.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Find the defendant not guilty.  Not guilty.  Not guilty.

OLBERMANN:  2005.  The year of the other woman.  From superstar

switches -

Kid, pail, shovel, an actor and an actress.  Case closed.  She's a hussy.

To the justice juggle.

White House counsel Harriet Miers, nominated by President Bush.

Harriet Miers has withdrawn her name from consideration.

OLBERMANN:  And from detested.

PRINCESS DIANA, DECEASED PRINCESS OF WALES:  There were three of us in this marriage.

OLBERMANN:  To becoming the duchess.

Also, the year Tom Cruise put couches in the headlines from Oprah's to the psychiatrists.

TOM CRUISE, ACTOR:  Matt, you don't even—you're glib.  You don't even know what Ritalin is.

OLBERMANN:  The year investigations led to opportunities.  Tom DeLay's tutorial on how to take a mug shot.  Scooter Libby's success turning an indictment into increased sales for his novel with bestiality in it.

2005, the year COUNTDOWN took a popsicle stick and changed the face of journalism.  The cardboard face of journalism.

MICHAEL JACKSON'S PUPPET:  I have a blue light symptom.

Woo-hoo-hoo.

UNIDENTIFIED PUPPET:  Need some wood?

OLBERMANN:  A year where we offered no apologies for how we covered the news.  Well, except for that one time.

I have sinned against you!

And if you thought that was a sin, this is COUNTDOWN's favorite things of 2005.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You can't play hide the salami.

OLBERMANN:  Welcome, this is our second annual tribute to the simple fact that amid all the real news each night, in the past year we sure needed the laughs.  When we're really lucky every night on COUNTDOWN, the two collide.  We begin at the nexus of world shaking import and side splitting comedy, Washington, DC!  Oh!  Where else could a Supreme Court nomination include discussions about public scatology?  Where else could the indictment of a White House official turn into a frenzy to buy the crazy ass book he wrote full of pedophilia, grave robbing and bears, oh, my!  Where else could a White House press secretary survive an entire year without saying almost anything?

MCCLELLAN:  Our policy continues to be that we are not going to get into commenting in an ongoing criminal investigation from this podium.

QUESTION:  When you did you change your mind to say it was OK to comment during the course of an investigation before but now it is not?

MCCLELLAN:  This is all relating to questions about an ongoing investigation and I've been through this.

DAVID GREGORY, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Did Karl Rove commit a crime?

MCCLELLAN:  Again, David, this is a question relating to an ongoing investigation.

GREGORY:  I mean, just, this is ridiculous.  You've got a public record out there.  Do you stand by your remarks from that podium or not?

MCCLELLAN:  Again, David, I'm well aware, like you, of what was previously said.

OLBERMANN:  It is described as the story of the young Japanese man who run a remote mountain inn and gets caught up in a world of intrigue.  Well, there's intrigue and then there's—well, bestiality.  There's a lot of bestiality in Mr. Libby's novel.  We know about the passage about the bear and the girl.

Quote, “The young samurai's mother had the child sold to a brothel where she swept the floors and oiled the women.  At age 10 the madam put the child in a cage with a bear trained to couple with young girls so the girls would be frigid and not fall in love with their patrons.  They fed her through the bars and aroused the bear with a stick when it seemed to lose interest.  Groups of men paid to watch.  Like other girls who have been trained this way, she learned to handle many men in a single night and her skin turned a milky white.

OK.  But what happened to the bear?

MCCLELLAN:  Again, this is getting into where someone engaged in a blame game.  We've got a .

QUESTION:  It's not a blame game.

MCCLELLAN:  I'm just not going to engage in the blame game or finger pointing you're trying to get me to engage in.

GREGORY:  That's not at all what I was gone asking.

MCCLELLAN:  Sure it is.

GREGORY:  That's exactly - You have tried - the thing about the blame game which you've said enough.

MCCLELLAN:  What you're doing the s trying to engage in a game of finger pointing.

If you want to engage in finger pointing and blame gaming that's fine.

GREGORY:  That's ridiculous.  I'm not engaged .

MCCLELLAN:  It's not ridiculous.  No.  No.  Everybody that watches this knows, David, that you're trying to engage in the blame game.

Look.  You can keep show boating for the cameras.

OLBERMANN:  Our number one story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, Harriet Miers is a man killer.  Yes, behind that seemly bland exterior beats a rather potent heart, apparently.  One capable of besting the competition.  Not only professionally but also personally.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  My day job is as an anagrammatist so I took Harriet Miers' name and broke it down and found that there are different clues to he her personality.  Harriet Miers is an anagram for “A hermit riser.”  Which could mean many things but it means that she can really bring anyone to life.  It's also an anagram for “trashier Mier” which means that she can make the Supreme Court an even saucier place than it's already been, even trashier.

OLBERMANN:  And then there's Harriet Miers route which we learned today included a birthday card to the future president who had nominated her that read, “Dear Governor GWB, you are the best governor ever.”  The admiration apparently mutual.  Governor Bush writing back to wish Ms. Miers a happy 52nd birthday telling her to “never hold back your sage advice.”  Ending with the post script.  This is where it gets weird.  “No more public scatology.”  You heard me.  Scatology.  We don't think it is some sort of jazz or blues reference as in the scat singing style of Louis Armstrong.

LOUIS ARMSTRONG, JAZZ MUSICIAN:  Zado, Zado, zaah.

QUESTION:  But Scott, you defended Al Gonzales without ever being asked.

MCCLELLAN:  I'll come to you in a second.

QUESTION:  Yeah, you defended Al Gonzales without ever being asked.

QUESTION:  Can we get a straight answer?

QUESTION:  We ask the question and I'll provide the answer?

MCCLELLAN:  And yes.  I was providing the answer.  Can I not say what I want to say?

OLBERMANN:  You may love him or hate him but you're going to go crazy over his mug shot.  Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay already indicted, already deploying downer counter prosecutor chaff like measure and today turning himself in and making art.  Mr. Delay seeing to forego all mug shot conventional wisdom by embracing the portraiture possibility.  Check out the wide smile, the rosy glow, the button on the lapel.  Not a hair out of place.  Should the congressman still be searching for a 2005 Christmas card photo, this could easily make the short list.  Which would tie in nicely if the DeLay family holiday newsletter is to include a criminal prosecution paragraph.

We never thought we would say this but right here right now at the historic moment of his induction, Tom DeLay is without a doubt, the snazziest looking member of the COUNTDOWN mug shot hall of fame.

Say six figures exterminating contract.  Mr. DeLay joining a suspicious looking cast of characters no matter what the eventual verdict may have been.  Take former colleague James Traficant.  His hair piece asked for and received a separate trial.

Hair no doubt a sore subject with this suspect.  Apparently he was cuffed halfway through getting his do done.  This gentleman charged with harmful intoxicants.  We're guessing, just guessing that the can of gold Rust-O-Leum spray paint they found with him had something to do with it.

The eyes, always telling us everything we need to know about the runaway bride Jennifer Wilbanks.  People's (ph) celebrity has been built on much less, my friend.

And from our celebrity celebrity file, two standouts.  The DeLay mug shot failing to achieve the puppet theater potential of one Michael Joe Jackson and last, but never, fever least, Nick Nolte, still the yardstick against all mug shots will be measured forever more.  Many thanks to our friends at thesmokinggun.com.

In Beijing over the weekend, as President Bush added another exhibit to must be his wing of what could be hall of fame of political bloopers not that door, sir.  That door is locked.  Don't pull on that door.  The firearm will go off.  The Chinese police will be alerted, sir.  Wait a minute.  The hall of fame of political bloopers?  That gives me an idea.  The COUNTDOWN hall of fame of political blooper.

Roll 'em.

RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT:  My fellow American, I'm pleased to tell you today that I've signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever.  We begin bombing in five minutes.

JOHN ASHCROFT, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL:  As the eagles soar like she's never soared before from the rocky coast to golden shores let the mighty eagle soar.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Those close to Reagan say he genuinely likes Bush and appreciates his loyalty.  Bush sometime gets carried away expounding on his relationship with the president.

GEORGE H. W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT:  We've had some triumphs.  We've made some mistakes, we've had some sex—setbacks.  Sometimes I feel like the—sometimes I feel like the javelin competitor who won the coin toss and elected to receive.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  What did Senator Obama do that Senator Kerry and other Democrats did not do?

SEN. TED KENNEDY, (D) MA:  Why don't we ask Osama bin Laden - Osama Obama - Obama what—since he won by such a big amount.  Seriously, Senator Obama is really a unique and special—I don't know him terribly well.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Kennedy at the height of his popularity praised the Berliners gathered at city hall for standing up to the communists in words that still ring today.

JOHN F. KENNEDY, FORMER PRESIDENT:  As a free man, I take pride in the words, “Ich bin ein Berliner.”

HOWARD DEAN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Not only are we going to New Hampshire, Tom Harkin, we're going to South Carolina, and Oklahoma, and Arizona, and North Dakota, and New Mexico, we're going to California, and Texas, and New York, and we're going to South Dakota, and Oregon and Washington and Michigan and then we're going to Washington, DC to take back the White House!  Yeaaaarrrararaggghghghghghh!

TERESA HEINZ KERRY, JOHN KERRY'S WIFE:  You said something I didn't say.  Now shove it!

G. W. BUSH:  With our key members of the defense team about a variety of subjects.  We talked about Iraq.  We're making progress on the ground.

LYNDON BAINES JOHNSON, FORMER PRESIDENT:  Now, another thing, the crotch, down where your (EXPLETIVE DELETED) hang, is always too tight.  Because they cut me.  See if you can leave me about an inch from where the zipper right under my, back to by bung (EXPLETIVE DELETED).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Bush returns to the issues debate after an embarrassing moment on the stump Monday in front of an open microphone.

G.W. BUSH:  There's Adam Clymes, major league (EXPLETIVE DELETED) from the “New York Times.”

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We are continuing to monitor developments in Tokyo where this morning, the president was taken ill.  And there as you can see, he collapsed while seated at the banquet table.

DAN QUAYLE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT:  Spell that again.  Add one little bit on the end.  Potato.  There you go.

G. W. BUSH:  We've got issues in America.  Too many good docs are getting out of business.  Too many good OB/GYNs aren't able to practice their love with women all across this country.

There's this old saying in Tennessee.  I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee.  It's Fool me once, shame on—shame on you.  Fool me, we can't get fooled again.

OLBERMANN:  From political exit strategies to wedding exits, the runaway bride helping Martha Stewart put the afghan back in vogue and headlining a year of bizarre relationship news.  And release the doves!  The big legal story of this year.  The acquittal of Michael Jackson on child molestation charges.  You are watching COUNTDOWN's favorite things of 2005 on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  The stories of COUNTDOWN are not more of my choosing, not more than eight or nine a night, though, on a show that ostensibly only has five stories.  I call them the one my producers force me to do.  And they tend to be about celebrities and what they see as love and the rest of us see as a reminder that even off-screen actors are acting.  From royal wedding gaffs to couch jumping superstars to a missing bride that everybody but me thought had been kidnapped.  2005 from the file labeled what has love got to do with it?

CRUISE:  The premier we wanted here in France because it is beautiful and it's romantic and yes, I proposed to Kate last night.

OLBERMANN:  To he story that just keep on giving.  It gives my producers fits of glee.  It gives me agita.

OPRAH WINFREY, TALK SHOW HOST:  We've never seen you behave this way before.

CRUISE:  I know.

WINFREY:  Have you ever felt this way before?

OLBERMANN:  Tom Cruise went off on Matt Lauer this morning.

CRUISE:  Matt -

You don't know the history of psychiatry.  I do.

Matt, you don't even—you're glib.  You don't even know what Ritalin is.

WINFREY:  Tom!  I've never seen you like this.

OLBERMANN:  If Tom Cruise doesn't calm down soon, someone will go after him.  Probably with an elephant tranquilizer gun.

Tom Cruise and his fiancee Katie Holmes are expecting a baby.  No, their own!  They're not sitting there waiting for cousins to stop by with a newborn.

KATIE HOLMES, ACTRESS:  We're so excited.  Amazing.  A dream come true.  So excited.  There's so much excitement many going on.  It is amazing.  Exciting.

OLBERMANN:  Hold on a second!  I'm going to traipse around this next question delicately.  Did Tom Cruise, a father, artificial insemination?  Immaculate conception?  Neighborhood volunteer?  Pizza delivery boy?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Tom is totally the father.  He is not MIA.  He is the top gun.

OLBERMANN:  In the immortal words of Howard Dean on HARDBALL tonight, we're not playing hide the salami here.

OLBERMANN:  Brad Pitt and Jennifer Anniston have just separated.  But Linda Tripp has just gotten married.  Our number one story on the COUNTDOWN, to quote the comedian Louis Anderson, what hell kind of world are we living in?

ANGELINA JOLIE, ACTRESS:  It's romantic in a very weird way.  Here it.

OLBERMANN:  The smoking gun, the kid, the pail, an actor and an actress.  Case closed.  She's a hussy.  He's a guy.  And more truly than the film of them romping naked down Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, shots of Pitt and Jolie with Jolie Jr. would indicate she's his girlfriend.  And Mrs. Pitt, Jennifer Anniston who filed for divorce a month ago, did not jump.  She was pushed.

Any man will tell you, if the son is there, too, this is the, the woman is going for the ring.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The kid is safer there than at Neverland, OK?

OLBERMANN:  That's a great finish.

JOLIE:  The discovery of two strangers.

OLBERMANN:  We're finishing with another edition of stories the producers made me cover.

JOLIE:  It's all heat and passion of a stranger.

OLBERMANN:  Did you sense that I'm doing tonight's number one story under protest?

JOLIE:  It's that hot, drunken wild sexy night with a stranger.

OLBERMANN:  Keep your knees loose.  Thank you, producers for making me do that story.  Good night and good luck.

ANNOUNCER:  Previously on desperate royal house wives.

DIANA:  There were three of us in this marriage so it was a bit crowded.

QUEEN ELIZABETH THE SECOND, UNITED KINGDON:  It has just turned out to be an (unintelligible)

ANNOUNCER:  Their love burned for 30 years.  Now on the eve of their wedding, dark forces are gathering.  Will his mother intervene?  What about his ex-wife's brother Earl?  And who is minding the castle?  On desperate royal house wives!

OLBERMANN:  So everything should be fine now.  They're getting married to April 9.  The anniversary of the day the Beatles split up and the day the Titanic's officers came aboard ship.

ANNOUNCER:  Previously on desperate royal house wives.  The royal marriage, take two.  On the surface, it looked picture perfect.  But underneath her designer gown, did Camilla have cold feet?  Did the queen forget the cardinal rule of Great Britain, the stiff upper lip?  And did the guests realize that short skirts plus shuttle buses equals diapers?  Next on desperate royal house wives.

PRINCE CHARLES, PRINCE OF WALES:  Thank you!  Thank you!

OLBERMANN:  I don't mean to judge a book by its cover, but those photo of this woman, I don't know how recent they are.  There is just a feeling about those shots with her eyes sort of bugging out that when you look at that, you say, is she going to run?  Or do something?

Sentence to 120 hours for communicate service for having lied to the police.  The infamous runaway bride served a portion of that sentence in public today.  Wilbanks wearing an orange vest and a hat that reads, “life is good.”  But what skill she lacked in lawn mowing acumen, she made up with her unique weed killing ability.  OK.  That's a lawsuit.  I knew she could do that.

There is the apparently still fiance, John Mason.  Here we were advised was once a rowdy hard living dating kind of guy, but while rededicating himself to his faith, he declared himself a born again virgin.  As I asked on Friday night, when did they change that rule?

Do I have to file paperwork on this?  OR do I have to get a note signed by a clergyman or do I have to just put my hand on the rock and say “I am a born again virgin?”

DR. DREW PINSKY, ADDICTION MEDICINE SPECIALIST:  I know you're very interested in this kind of thing.  And we can arrange it for you.  As far as I know, there is no formal paperwork available yet.  None that I'm aware of.  But I can arrange something for you, I'm sure.

ANNOUNCER:  Will she show up this time?  Will he show up this time?  Will the blushing bride wear white or throw on the old blanket?  Find out in nine days with wandering eyes two.  The return of the runaway bride.

MSNBC's special 24/7 blowout wall to wall unrelenting coverage begins tomorrow morning in Georgia with an unrivaled panel of experts to cover every aspect of the story.  Plus our correspondents will be covering all the local train stations and bus depots just in case there's a return to flight.  It is the “COUNTDOWN To The Return To The Wedding That Never Happened But It Gripped The Nation Because She Ran Away On A Bus To Vegas But Now She's Back And They're Getting Married On August 12.”  Only on MSNBC.  And most everywhere else.

OLBERMANN:  That wedding alert was a red herring.  As was the Wilbanks's no show apology.  We had hopes of inducting her into our apology hall of fame.  You'll see why she did not make the grade.  And later how a popsicle stick revolutionized the world of television journalism.  Well, the COUNTDOWN world of television journalism, anyway.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  COUNTDOWN's favorite things, 2005.  The 500 days of the Michael Jackson legal saga coming to an end in June from the E.R. trip to Jesus juice to the verdict day.  We'll reopen the COUNTDOWN Jackson time capsule.  And where cameras could not take you in the Jackson trial, COUNTDOWN's puppets did.  We'll take you behind the scene in a state-of-the-art look at the making of puppet theater.  And the spin-off from red carpet slap puppets, porn stars at DC fundraiser puppets, and the secrecy of picking a pope puppets.  And we shudder to think of coverage in 2005 without popsicle sticks.

All that and more as COUNTDOWN continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  And we continue with “Countdown's” favorite things of 2005.  It could be said that in the 2.5 years of the Michael  Jackson case, the story improved with age just like fine wine.  Well, Jesus juice, anyway.  Headlines so bizarre, some days we couldn't decide where to put our puppets.  Here now the long national nightmare that was the Jackson trial and the journalistic genre it inspired.  Inspired, as in how the hell are we going to cover a trial without no camera?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MICHAEL JACKSON, SINGER:  I would like to say hello to the people of Santa Maria, my friends and neighbors. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Earlier today, around 8:30 a.m., the Santa Barbara County sheriff's investigators, accompanied by investigators from the Santa Barbara County District Attorney's office, served a search warrant as a part of an ongoing criminal investigation.  This address is commonly referred to as the Neverland Ranch. 

OLBERMANN:  The network Court TV is reporting the actions were taken after unspecified charges from a 12-year-old boy. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Our arrest warrant for Mr. Jackson has been issued on multiple counts of child molestation. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Jackson himself, I believe, has said that this was all done to try to ruin his new CD that was coming out or whatever it is he's doing.  Like the sheriff and I are really into that kind of music.  But.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I have to tell you, Keith, it's essentially boiled down to almost like Elvis sightings at the airport. 

OLBERMANN:  We are awaiting the first ever perp moon walk.  The media circus has begun.

Michael Jackson's flying circus.  The judge raps his knuckles for showing up late to his own arraignment.  But for the defendants, this was one giant love-in, preserved for posterity by his own cameraman. 

Jackson arrived 40 minutes early this morning for his arraignment in a Santa Maria courtroom adorned in a suit and tie and wearing what looked like prescription glasses. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Michael, you do understand that if you're not here by 9:35, the judge will put you in jail and he will forfeit your bond of $3 million?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It's a miracle!  I'll be right over Mr. Mezmo (ph).  Tito, get me some jammies. 

OLBERMANN:  So now it's time for everybody else's nausea, the trial. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Jackson gave him and his brother alcohol and Jackson called the wine Jesus juice. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  The Jesus juice, the alcohol in the soda bottles.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  The Jesus juice in the coke cans. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Interpretive readings from porn  magazines, toast the audience with Jesus juice. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  A lot of porn apparently taken out of Neverland.  We can't even mention most of the titles.  I think barely legal is about the only magazine that we can actually mention. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  “Hustler” and “Playboy”. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Did you attempt to watch pornography.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  There was pornography.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  He had pornography all over his house. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Looking at pornography. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I look at girly magazines. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  She is Michael Jackson's ex-wife, mother of his two eldest children.  And now Debbie Roe has taken the stand as a key witness in the case against him. 

OLBERMANN:  Only at the Michael Jackson trial, the word “wacko” finally comes up on the record.

It's used by Larry King, who winds up not testifying after all.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I'm a comedian in my mid 50's.  I'm not Batman, one of several Jay Leno lines from court today, which did get a laugh from the audience. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  There will be no more witnesses or testimony in the Michael Jackson case.  It's over. 

OLBERMANN:  A jury of Jackson's peers, well, four guys and eight girls will decide whether the superstar walks free or goes to the clink. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Now more than ever, there is a chance, a good chance that Michael may be convicted. 

OLBERMANN:  It has claimed Jackie Stallone, Sylvester's mother, owner of noted psychic dogs.  “He is totally innocent.  I got a flash.  He's going to come out of this stronger than ever.  This all came to me like a lightning bolt.”  Lightning bolt, huh?  Now I understand everything. 

The promised notice to the world of an hour before the verdicts were read came at about 3:34 p.m. Eastern time, 12:34 in Santa Maria. 

Jackson then left Neverland Ranch, passing briefly past supporters, who had

locked arms in a kind of cross between “We are the World” and “Hands Across

America”

One fan outside actually released a dove each time the court reporter spoke the words not guilty.  14 doves would be released. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  We the jury in the above entitled case find the defendant guilty of lewd act upon a minor child as charged in Count four of the indictment. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I disliked it intensely when she snapped her fingers at us.  That's when I thought, don't snap your fingers at me, lady!

OLBERMANN:  He was acquitted of everything except the Enron stock case. 

And so at 5:14 p.m. Eastern, 2:14 Pacific, it all ended.  Or did it?  On the theory that the Michael Jackson trial is not really over until the last fat puppet sings, we'll decide when it's over.

One dramatic last blast from the cheapest puppet show, this time

·         this side of the North Korean government, but first, the best of   Michael Jackson puppet theater. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I have a flu-like symptom.  What happened?  Oh, I remember.  It was yesterday.  Don't take me to the courtroom.  I need a doctor and Uri Geller.

Yes, I remember now.  I got sick.  I'd better go to the window and wave to NBC.  I know, I know, I'm late again, but I do not feel well.  And we had to meet here because my lawyer, Mr. Mezmo (ph) and I needed privacy.

What?  You thought I liked meeting men in bathrooms?  It's amazing how people misinterpret things.  I mean, that testimony about the head licking, I only lick children's heads to help them stay clean. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Hello?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Hello? Jesse Jackson?  It's me,   Michael Jackson. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Michael, let us pray that on this day at this hour before I rise to take a shower, I'll remember to call the phone company so I can get me some caller ID. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Today is jury appreciation week treat is carrot cake!  Yay! 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Oh, no, my chimpanzee housekeeping staff has escaped.  And they love carrot cake.  They're very smart.  Their DNA is identical to humans when you look under a microscope.

And I've been doing that a lot lately.  Did you hear my interview yesterday?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Elizabeth Taylor used to feed me, hand feed me at times. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, now you'll be haunted by that image for weeks. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Judge, hello.  What's your question?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Mr. King, tell me exactly what you could tell the jury about the defendant, Michael Jackson?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Michael Jackson?  A star among stars.  For my money, one of the world's great stamp collectors.  And he uses Garlique, proven to reduce cholesterol levels by 25 points. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Mr.  Culkin, you say that Mr. Jackson never touched you, that the accusation is completely ridiculous, that you never saw him bother any other child?  What would your reaction be then to all these witnesses here who say they saw him touching you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Ah!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Man, that was predictable. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The jury is dismissed with the court's thanks.  Mr. Jackson, you are free to leave. 

OLBERMANN:  Congratulations, Michael!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Thank goodness.  What a relief.  Now I can remove this stupid mask.  Tito, hand me a loofah!  Whoa.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Medic, there's something wrong with my.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  We are not alone in the fascination with puppets.  They struck a chord with America.  The evidence?  Well, our originals did go for top dollar on the Internet.  And there was a documentary about the puppets hosted by the narrator of “Behind the Music”.  Of course, we asked him to be the narrator of the documentary.  Stop nit picking.

And it's hard to say I'm sorry, but how about doing it in the glare of the media spotlight?  The best apologies of all time, coming up as “Countdown's” favorite things of 2005 continues.

But first, here's a look at “Countdown's” top three sound bytes from a day.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL TYSON:  I was at my worst self.  I'm just so happy that I'm happy again. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  How's everybody doing?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Better be careful.  People behind you are really hungry.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What's happening here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Let's serve some chow here.

CROWD:  Fight, Michael, fight.  Fight Michael fight.

Let's go bodyguards, let's go.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Guilty as charged.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Hey, America, you love the Jackson trial, but boring sketches and scary talking heads don't come close to getting you into the courtroom until now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Finally, “Countdown with Keith Olbermann” has brought America's love affair with celebrity trials and puppetry together in this very special TV offer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It's the Michael Jackson puppet theater home starters kit hand chiseled from real popsicle sticks by unskilled laborers at MSNBC.

“Countdown's” puppets are only the highest quality.  Just watch it slice through this ripe tomato.

You'll get the Jackson puppet, the Sneddon puppet, Mesereau and the judge, but that's not all.  Act now, and we'll throw in Bubbles the Chimp and fancy pajama Michael.

That's six puppets, all autographed by Keith Olbermann.  Log onto to ebay.com.  Search Michael Jackson puppet theater and make your big today.

OLBERMANN:  By the way, bidding recently closed.  And when I say recently, of course I mean last May.  Apparently, one of “Countdown's” favorite things was also one of your favorite things.

Americans got a chance to own a piece of Michael Jackson puppet theater history.  When the hammer went down, the bidding  was over at $15,999.99, a profit for charity of roughly $15,999.99. 

So what do you do when popsicle sticks makes you that much money?  Well, first, you try to understand the mystique that is Michael Jackson puppet theater.  And then you try to make more popsicle sticks.  And then you try to duplicate it.

Another inside glimpse, courtesy Michael Jackson puppet theater. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Television, the word itself implies the very elements necessary for this ubiquitous information of media.  So in the most important story of the modern age comes along.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Shocker, more drama at the Michael Jackson case. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  How does an award winning news team cover it? 

When there are no pictures.

They call it puppet theater.  The idea?  Give America what they crave.  A peek inside the California courtroom where Michael Jackson is standing trial.  And recreate it with popsicle stick puppetry. 

Popsicles.  But how does something as simple as this become this? 

The process begins, of course, with a script. 

OLBERMANN:  I have really bad nightmares.  And I just wake up in the middle of the night screaming and write them down.  And then we act them out as puppet theater. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It's tracked in a state-of-the-art sound booth. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I love this part.  Billy Jean.  Puppets are crafted by hand and then they're brought to life by a crew of 45 and the magic of television. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We'll toss one in there.  And I want you come up and follow it in.  And then, she's going to flush. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What?  You thought I liked meeting men in bathrooms?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Are there any creative differences ever?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  You guys suck. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No.  Never. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Later, the project heads to post production for sweetening and finishing touches. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  How important is the accuracy? How real is puppet theater?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well, we're a news network.  Facts are very important to us.  The rocks the other day that they were throwing at the lions, real.  Totally real. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  But the real news didn't stop with Michael Jackson.  When cardinals locked themselves into the Sistine Chapel to pick a pope, there were puppets. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Hey, you got enough votes for anybody?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  How many votes you got?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No, not enough. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  OK, no pope today.  Make with the white smoke.  No, black smoke!  Black smoke!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  That was a close one.  Woo-hoo!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  When stars slapped producers on red carpets and other networks won't sell “Countdown,” the video, there were puppets. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Tell us a little about the movie. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You don't know anything about the movie?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well then, what the hell are you asking me for?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I want to get your point of view. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Did you see the original?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I haven't. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What the hell kind of guy are you?

These guys never seen the (bleep) original.  He's asking me to tell him about the picture.  He's standing there in a shirt and he's ironing.  The man works for CBS.

I'm just - I'm embarrassed.  I like the guy.  He's a nice guy, a tough guy.  He wants to come on out.  He can't because he's under contract with CBS, but we'll meet later if you want. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  When a porn star goes to a Republican fundraiser in D.C., cue the puppets. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  OK, Mary, here come the politicians. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Hi, Mr.  Delay.  I'm—hi!  Mr.  Speaker?

My name is—nice to meet you. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Hey, Mary, it's the big guy, the president. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Need some wood?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And when we learned Anna Nicole appeared before the Supreme Court, puppets looked into the future. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We're going to hear argument now, number 0415544.  Vickie Lynn Marshall against E. Pierce Marshall.  Mr. Richland?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Mr. Chief justice, may it please the court. 

Petitioners are performing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Hey!  Can I have my lap dance now? This guy, this guy's a freaking genius.  And hey!  You all the Supremes?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Behind the headlines, beyond the reach of cameras, 2005, forever remembered as the year “Countdown” brought us puppets.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Special thanks to the great Jim Forbes for the use of his voice.  Hall of Fame time next up on “Countdown.”  The art of the public apology, just the right mix of sincerity, tears, and working it for the camera.  Favorite things 2005 returns in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Baseball freshwater fishing, the rock and roll, the polka, even the ukulele for inventors, accountants, clowns, and left-handed people.  Everybody's got a hall of fame.  America is obsessed with the best of the best.  And you know you have arrived once somebody puts up a few plaques and calls it a hall.

We here on “Countdown” like to celebrate the best of  the worst, those people who have done wrong, broken the law, behaved badly, or simply acted in poor taste.

And most critically, they didn't get away with it.  “Countdown's” apology hall of fame, one of our most favorite things of 2005.  

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PAT O'BRIEN, HOST:  Let's get crazy, get some coke, hire a hooker.  If you agree with this, just look at me and say yes. 

I'm sorry I did it.  I'm sorry it offended people.  I apologize to people that this has offended.  

DAN RATHER:  It was a mistake.  CBS News deeply regrets it.  

Also, I want to say personally and directly, I'm sorry. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Personally, I didn't think it would have  offended anyone and.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Oh, hell. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  .you know, if it did, you know, we  apologize. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I am sorry, so, so sorry that.

DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE:  To those Iraqis who were mistreated by members of the U.S. Armed Forces, I offer my deepest apology. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I apologize to anybody that's been brought into this unnecessarily. 

ASHLEE SIMPSON, SINGER:  On a Monday, I am waiting.  Tuesday, I am fading.  

I feel so bad.  My band started singing the wrong song.  And I didn't know what to do, so I thought I'd do a hoedown.  I'm sorry.

JANET JACKSON, SINGER:  Unfortunately, the whole thing went wrong in the end.  I am really sorry. 

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I know that my public comments and my silence about this matter gave a false impression.  I misled people, including even my wife.  

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I'm so sorry.  I love my wife so much.  

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  In order to be a racist, you have to feel superior.  I don't feel superior to you at all.  I don't believe any man or any woman is superior to any.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Did you always hold that view? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I think I did.  

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I feel really bad for Nancy,  And I feel really lucky that it wasn't me. 

JAY LENO, HOST, “THE TONIGHT SHOW”:  What the hell were you thinking? 

HUGH GRANT, ACTOR:  I think we know in life, pretty much what's a good thing to do and what's a bad thing.  And I did a bad thing.  And there you have it. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Sweetheart, who do you want  to be when you grow up? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Just like my daddy. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Poor little thing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Steve, let me jump in here.  

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You know, I am sorry.  

ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER:  Yes, that I have behaved badly sometimes.  To those people I offended, I want to say that I'm deeply sorry about that and I apologize.  

RICHARD NIXON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  But if some of my judgments were wrong, and some were wrong, they were made in what I believed at the time to be the best interest of the nation. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Please forgive me.  I have sinned against you, my Lord.  And I would ask that your precious love.  

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  And here's hoping that in 2006, you don't find yourself in the  “Countdown” apology hall of fame. Me neither.  That's “Countdown's” favorite things of 2005.  I'm Keith Olbermann.  Keep your knees loose.  Goodnight and good luck.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

END   

Content and programming copyright 2005 MSNBC.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Transcription Copyright 2005 Voxant, Inc. ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user's personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and Voxant, Inc.'s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

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