In Depth

Women in Television: Rachel Maddow

Who: Rachel Maddow, host of MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show”

Women in TV

Why: She is the biggest, brightest overnight star ever created in the cable news universe. After proving she had the right stuff as a substitute host on “Countdown With Keith Olbermann,” she won the post-“Countdown” spot on MSNBC in September. Right out of the gate, she doubled the ratings performance of the time slot’s previous occupant, Dan Abrams. She occasionally beats “Countdown,” often beats CNN’s “Larry King Live” and is winning rave reviews.

What: The newest addition to MSNBC’s stable of left-leaning stars is nice, not an adjective heard in the same breath as her senior counterparts’ names. She articulates her eclectic views—she’s hawk-ish on defense—with a wink and a wryness that makes her the Mr. Rogers in a neighborhood that long ago was taken over by big-voiced bullies.

But she’s still the Rachel Maddow who got into radio as a goof and found that she not only liked talking for a living but was good at it. “I’m trying simultaneously to appreciate how lucky I am right now and to not pay attention at all to what people are saying about me, positive or negative! Difficult (impossible?) to do both, but I’m trying,” she said in an e-mail dashed off during one of her nonstop days (she still hosts a similarly titled weekday radio show on Air America). Oh, and did we mention she’s an out lesbian? Ms. Maddow has made that a “so-what?” question.