Alex Wagner’s upcoming MSNBC show doesn’t have a name or look yet

MSNBC has announced that Alex Wagner, who previously hosted a daily dayside show on the network, will become the permanent replacement for “The Rachel Maddow Show” on Tuesday through Friday.

The show, which is set for an Aug. 16, 2022, debut, does not have a name yet, but will air four days a week in the slot the network is branding as “MSNBC Prime” for now.

The announcement culminates nearly a year of speculation over what the key 9 p.m. hour might look like at MSNBC. 

In August 2021, the network announced it had signed Maddow to a new deal that calls for her to only anchor her show, a staple of MSNBC’s lineup and one of the highest-rated programs, once a week.

Since then, the network has been cautiously mulling what to do with those other four days of week.

Once “Maddow” officially switched to weekly in May 2022, the network created the “MSNBC Prime” brand that used elements from her graphics package with a series of rotating hosts.

Wagner previously hosted “Now with Alex Wagner” from 2011 to 2015, but the show was canceled as part of a broader plan to shift more to news coverage during the day and less on personality-driven shows and analysis.

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Initially, Wagner stayed with the network and was slated to host a weekend show, but it was never launched.

Eventually, in late 2016, she jumped to CBS, becoming co-anchor of the “CBS This Morning” Saturday edition. She left that role in 2018 to co-host the Showtime documentary series “The Circus.”

She returned to MSNBC as an analyst and fill-in host in February 2022.

MSNBC still has to decide on a name for the show — and what it will look like, but it’s unlikely that the “Now” name will be reused, mainly because of its streaming service NBC News Now, which wasn’t around during Wagner’s original run, appears to have an unspoken monopoly on the word “Now” within NBC, with its morning show called “Morning News Now” and another offering called “Hallie Jackson Now.”

The network could continue the trend of tying together its two 9 p.m. shows with Maddow’s blocky red, white and blue look with torn page elements in order to maintain a visual continuity throughout the week or head in a completely different visual direction. Like on many cable networks, most evening and weekend shows on the network have distinct logos and opens but share the same lower third wraparound graphics, with just color changes shifting between blocks.

By renaming the block but incorporating the “Maddow” look, MSNBC seemed to be strategically projecting that viewers could still expect the same type of content Tuesday through Friday even if Maddow wasn’t sitting in the chair. 

Although it’s likely Wagner will want to be able to put her own mark and style on her show, it wouldn’t be surprising if the show has similarities to Maddow’s.

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