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Rachel Maddow promises to stir things up with her new MSNBC show

August 20, 2008 | 10:27 am

Rachel Maddow, MSNBC’s newest host, giddily contemplated what her show will look like when it debuts on the cable news network on Sept. 8.

“Live audience. Live punk band. You know, mariachis for important segues,” she joked with Keith Olbermann Tuesday evening during an appearance on his program to announce her new gig.

No matter what form her show takes, there’s no question that the 35-year-old will cut a different figure than most of her cable brethren. An openly gay woman, unapologetic liberal and Rhodes scholar with a doctorate from Oxford University, Maddow has drawn a passionate following during her stint this year as an analyst for MSNBC.

Network executives are now trying to capitalize on her rising popularity, hoping that she will further their efforts to remake MSNBC as the destination for lively political news and analysis.

MSNBC officially announced today that it was replacing Dan Abrams’s program “Verdict” in the 6 p.m. PT time slot with “The Rachel Maddow Show.”

"Rachel is unbelievably talented and brilliant; her breadth and depth of knowledge of politics and news is astonishing and I'm so excited to give her a place to really showcase what she can do," said MSNBC President Phil Griffin said in a statement.

Abrams, who served as general manager of the channel for a period, will continue in his role as chief legal correspondent for NBC News, making additional contributions to “Dateline” and “Today,” and anchor on MSNBC during the day.

"Dan is the best legal analyst in the business,” Griffin said. “Our prime time focus is now politics, so this move will enable Dan to focus on what he does best.”

Abrams graciously called the decision “absolutely the right call.”

“I look forward to my future success at NBC News," he said in a statement released by the network.

Maddow’s appointment is another indication of how MSNBC is embracing the political left in a quest for ratings. The strategy, driven largely by the success of Olbermann’s denunciations of the Bush Administration, has left NBC News open to criticism from Republicans who complain that the channel’s coverage is unfair.

But liberals were jubilant at the news of Maddow’s appointment. On the website Daily Kos, where Olbermann broke the news Tuesday in a “fully authorized leak,” one commenter posted a poem in her honor, calling her “the Everlasting Progressive, the Princess of News.”

Maddow, who will continue hosting her daily radio program on Air America, said she plans to make her new television program more than a political forum.

“We’ll do weird news from far away,” she told Olbermann. “I have weird obsessions that will probably make it onto the show. I’m obsessed with the Iraqi national soccer team. I think there’s a lot of domestic crime committed by naked men that needs a lot extra coverage.”

“We still haven’t defined the role of America in a post-Soviet world, let alone a post-9/11 world,” she added more seriously. “There’s so much going on between the election and the goofy that is neither. And I think after the election in part it’s going to be a little bit of a relief to have the whole wide world to cover, rather than just the election to chew on.”

-- Matea Gold

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