After a five-week hiatus, MSNBC host Rachel Maddow jokingly reintroduced herself to her viewers when she returned to her show last month.
Now she’s taking more time off.
Maddow will only host her MSNBC show on Monday nights going forward. It’s part of a new contract she signed with the network that will allow her time to work on other projects for MSNBC and NBC, including a film version of her award-winning podcast Bag Man, directed by Ben Stiller.
In some ways, it’s the end of an era for MSNBC, where Maddow has hosted her popular show for nearly 14 years. It has grown into the most-watched program on the network, regularly drawing more than 2 million viewers, going toe-to-toe on most nights with Fox News host Sean Hannity (CNN remains a distant third). Not surprisingly, ratings dipped during Maddow’s hiatus earlier this year.
So far, MSNBC isn’t announcing a permanent host to replace Maddow at 9 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. But they are renaming the show MSNBC Prime on those nights, another sign Maddow’s move is permanent.
For now, the network will turn to a series of guest hosts. First up is Ali Velshi, who will host this week and was a regular fill-in during Maddow’s hiatus.
“You should be so lucky to ever have a co-worker as great as Ali Velshi,” Maddow said last month. “We are incredibly lucky to have him here at MSNBC and I’m really really grateful that he helmed things so ably while I was gone.”
As with her hiatus, Maddow is expected to return to the network to co-anchor big news nights. It’s possible she’ll be on the air Tuesday, May 17, as part of MSNBC’s coverage of Pennsylvania’s primary election, which features a battle for the open U.S. Senate seat being vacated by retiring Republican Sen. Pat Toomey.
The short answer? Not much.
Bag Man will be based on Maddow’s podcast and book (co-written by Michael Yarvitz) of the same name, which focused on the bribery and extortion ring run out of the White House by Spiro Agnew, former President Richard Nixon’s vice president. The crimes were uncovered by three young prosecutors, who focused on bringing Agnew to justice during the height of the Watergate scandal before he could become the next president.
Ultimately, Agnew pleaded no contest to a single charge of tax evasion and resigned on Oct. 10, 1973. Ten months later, Nixon resigned and left the White House.
The film version of Bag Man is being developed by Focus Features, which is a subsidiary of NBCUniversal and owned by Philadelphia-based Comcast. Maddow is an executive producer, and one of the producers is longtime Saturday Night Live producer Lorne Michaels.
So far, no actors have been announced, and the film doesn’t have a release date. But Ben Stiller, fresh off his success with the first season of Apple TV+’s Severance, is attached to direct the movie.
“I’m hoping to shoot Bag Man this summer,” Stiller told Deadline last month.
The script is being written by Stiller, Yarvitz, and Adam Perlman, best known for his work on Showtime’s Billions. He also wrote on The Newsroom and The Good Wife, and is working on a new untitled drama series for Apple TV+ with Robert Downey Jr.
Another mystery project of Maddow’s is a new podcast for MSNBC. We don’t know anything about it yet, and MSNBC declined to comment. All we know is the structure won’t just be Maddow interviewing guests.
“It’s got a specific arc, a specific story. It’s a reported, journalistic tale,” Maddow said of the new podcast on her show in March. “It’s not just like a jibber-jabber podcast where I chat with people and admit I haven’t done the reading.”
Maddow also said she started working on adapting another book (she didn’t mention the title) for television.
“There’s all this stuff I’ve been working on that I want to work some more on,” Maddow said.
While Fox News has Hannity solidified in its 9 p.m. timeslot, CNN has yet to announce a full-time replacement for Chris Cuomo, whom the network fired in December.
Recently, CNN has turned to longtime anchor Anderson Cooper to fill the vacated timeslot by hosting a two-hour version of Anderson Cooper 360, which has mostly focused on the war in Ukraine.
The network could turn to former Fox News host Chris Wallace to fill the void, since he was hired to host his interview show on the now-defunct CNN+ streaming service. Wallace didn’t comment on his future during a Common Ground Committee panel discussion last week, other to say that he’ll “be fine.”
“I’m in good shape, whether it’s CNN or someplace else,” Wallace said.
Another name that has popped up in media reports is Brian Williams, who left his MSNBC show 11th Hour in December. According to the Daily Beast, Williams is looking for one final act on television, and could provide a big splash for new CNN boss Chris Licht, the former executive producer of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, who was hired to replace Jeff Zucker.
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