Keith Olbermann

LOS ANGELES -- Meet the kinder, gentler Keith Olbermann. At least that's who he claims to be. Fresh off his first rehearsal for "Olbermann," the nightly talk show that marks his return to the ESPN family, Olbermann insisted that he's gotten better at listening to other people's opinion.

"About 190,000 percent better," he said Tuesday afternoon.

Olbermann has built a relationship as an ace broadcaster, but also as a volatile figure who can anger even his closest colleagues. He had a stormy divorce with the sports network 16 years ago, but had nothing but positive things to say about his old/new employer. At the same time, he managed to throw some barbs at his last bosses at Current TV.

"The places I worked at thereafter made ESPN look like a 'Let's applaud Keith Olbermann sign' for five years," he said.

Olbermann denied a New York Times story that said his new contract doesn't allow him to talk about politics on the air. However, don't expect a lot of liberal ranting on this new program, which is set to launch at 10 p.m. Aug. 26 on ESPN2.

"I wanted to go back to sports," he said. "Nothing prevents me from (talking politics) other than common sense."

One element of his last show will remain: There will be a regular segment called "Worst Person in the Sports World."

In other ESPN news, producers announced a new slate of "30 For 30" documentaries, which include a profile of Jimmy Connors and a reexamination of the rivalry between Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan.

Also at the TV Critics press tour was James Brolin, who is appearing in the upcoming Hallmark movie  "Christmas With Tucker," which features a family-friendly pooch.

When asked about his own love for dogs, Brolin suggested trapping your dog and your wife in a car trunk. After an hour, release them and see which one is happy to see you.

This might be a good time to mention that Brolin is married to Barbra Streisand.

Something tells me the atmosphere could be a little chilly tonight at the ol' household.

The team behind Al Jareeza's American version of news blew journalists off with less than 48 hours notice, but the new network did announce that former CNN anchor Joie Chen will be the host of their prime-time program. I've known Joie for more than 15 years. An excellent choice.

Others who did make themselves available on Tuesday: Rob Lowe, GInnifer Goodwin, Andie McDowell and Lori Loughlin.

Coming up next: A poolside party with the stars of TNT.

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