So Rachel Maddow plans to exit MSNBC primetime next year and, as I reported this week, Nicolle Wallace is the most likely candidate to assume her mantle and become the new face of the network. From first blush, of course, it seems like a strange decision. After all, Wallace was working for the Dubya administration when Maddow was a rising star on Air America. But media realities can scramble political realignments. Wallace is now the face of a sober, Never Trump brand of practical centrism that could open up MSNBC’s primetime aperture. Just as importantly, she’s “producible” and Maddow likes her, presumably suggesting that the star would signal her followers to give her successor a chance. There’s no fear of a Leno–Conan situation.
At least that’s the picture taking shape at the executive levels of 30 Rock. The news of Maddow’s departure has not gone over particularly well among some rank and file at the network. Sources there tell me that MSNBC President Rashida Jones held a town hall Wednesday and fielded a question from an employee who wanted more clarity on the show’s future. Jones told them that Maddow had addressed the matter directly with her show’s staff—there’s some disagreement about whether that was actually true—and declined to say more. (An NBC spokesperson declined to comment).
Meanwhile, a few high-level NBC sources have told me that Maddow’s departure will likely have ripple effects across the network, and could precipitate an overhaul of the entire evening lineup. Their thesis: MSNBC primetime is currently built entirely around Maddow and her brand of progressivism, with liberal warriors Chris Hayes and Lawrence O’Donnell as the undercards to Maddow’s main event. Wallace’s brand of television is decidedly different—the Never Trump ex-Republican, the champion of reason and competency, the D.C. insider and political animal—and would thus require a different supporting cast.