Series / The Rachel Maddow Show

http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/maddow_2180.jpg
So lovely. So adorkable. So about to blow your mind.
"...and thanks to you at home, for joining us this hour."

The Rachel Maddow Show is an Emmy Award-winning news show on MSNBC hosted by Rachel Maddow, formerly of Air America fame, airing on weekdays at 9PM EST. Like many of its type, it is a blend of news stories and commentary, in this case with a self-admitted left-wing bias and a concentration on military defense and foreign policy. In 2012 she also published a book entitled Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power.

Unlike her former peer, Keith Olbermann — whose middle name might as well be Large Ham — and many other pundits out there, she is known for her calm demeanor and even-keeled manner, which alongside her dedication to research has earned her a sizable Fandom on both sides of the aisle. She is the first American news commentator who is openly gay.

The Rachel Maddow Show has examples of the following tropes:

  • Achievements in Ignorance: Rachel deliberately avoided taking any advice on how to run her show. She now averages around 1.1 million viewers nightly, and is rated second in popularity among all cable news networks.
  • Adorkable:
    • When she gets excited about anything, especially if it's really arcane political or legal stuff that requires a good bit of research to understand.
    • Election season. She will use MSNBC's election music-clip and graphics at every opportunity.
    • Richard Engelnote , when he excitedly starts explaining some complicated bit of foreign policy or international relations. Goes double if he's talking about his specialty, the Middle East.
    • Put Rachel and Richard Engel in the same room (or on the same screen... or the same phone line...) and the chances of both of them (adorably) going full-on defense policy wonk increase exponentially.
  • Affectionate Nickname: She calls Chris Hayes "Lambchop". Yes, really.
  • Alternate Character Interpretation: Invoked. Maddow thinks Herman Cain is an art project.
  • Angrish:
    "Um. Ehh...ummm. Uh buh buh... [...] I know I'm paid to talk for a living. I am incapable of doing what I'm paid to do right now. I'm absolutely stunned."January 2nd, 2012 episode.
    • Also her reaction to the suggestion that the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012 was a fake or a false flag operation carried out by the government. She recaps the theory with scalding anger in her voice, then notes, "It's insane. It's so offensive I almost can't describe it. I almost cannot speak of it." She did get over the Angrish enough to write an equally scathing article in The Washington Post, however.
  • Ascended Extra: A couple of regular guests on her show, Chris Hayes and Melissa Harris-Perry, have gotten their own shows on MSNBC. In fact, Hayes currently hosts the lead-in to Maddow's show, All In with Chris Hayes. As noted elsewhere, Maddow herself was a regular on Keith Olbermann's show before getting her own (and then replacing Keith when MSNBC fired him).
  • Berserk Button:
    • One word: PolitiFact… "Which has 'Fact' IN ITS NAME...!"Context 
    • "DON'T EAT THE GARNISH."Context 
  • Bifauxnen: Very much.
  • Birds of a Feather: What's better than getting two foreign policy geeks talking to each other? Having them do it on camera. No wonder Rachel and Richard Engel seem to go into their own adorably geeky world whenever they start talking about foreign affairs. (The fact that they blatantly adore each other is just a bonus.)
  • Boyish Short Hair: A little too closely cropped to qualify for Power Hair.
  • Brain Bleach: Citing the trope by name is only further proof that she is One of Us.
  • Brainy Brunette: She's a Stanford alum and a Rhodes Scholar with a PhD in politics from Oxford University.
  • Breakout Character: Her guest-hosting for Keith Olbermann was so popular it netted Rachel her own show.
  • Butch Lesbian: Rachel describes herself as "a big lesbian who looks like a man".
  • Catch Phrase:
    • "Big news tonight..."
    • "Bullpuckey!"
    • "THE BEST NEW THING IN THE WORLD TODAY"
    • To describe the Republican legislative agenda: "Jobs, jobs, jobs. By which I mean abortion." Often shortened to just, "Jobs, jobs, j'bortion."
    • Every show begins with her thanking the lead-in host, followed by "...and thanks to you at home, for joining us this hour."
    • Lately she's had her own And Knowing Is Half the Battle parody: declaring "You know more now" while playing NBC's old "And Now You Know" PSA tune (badly) on a kiddie xylophone.
    • Richard Engel will almost always sign off his interviews with her with a purely genuine "Absolutely" or "My pleasure".
    • She will frequently substitute "For example" with "Por ejemplo", for no apparent reason except that she can.
    • "Watch this space" when she expects to cover future developments on a story.
  • Changing of the Guard: With the departure of Keith Olbermann, Rachel has succeeded him as the "face" of MSNBC and the chief anchor for special coverage during election cycles.
  • Corpsing: While Rachel does plenty of laughing on the show, it is a very rare occasion to see her laughing so hard she can't even speak, which she did at the infamous "shagged by a rare parrot" Stephen Fry clip. She called it "the dirtiest Moment of Geek" she'd ever done and noted that she is apparently eight years old. Then kept laughing hysterically.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Not to the point of other liberal pundits like Jon Stewart or Keith Olbermann, but she does have her moments.
  • Defeat Means Friendship: After the Democrats won the White House.
    • With former RNC chairman Michael Steele.
    • Megan McCain, Greta Van Susteren, and Nicolle Wallace also serve this role.
    • Pat Buchanan was this until she (rather reluctantly) kicked him off the show for his borderline-racist comments toward eventual Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. He has not appeared on the show since.
  • Elephant in the Living Room: Referenced when the Virginia GOP promulgated a law that would close most of the state's abortion clinics, with a graphic showing the Republican elephant logo and "The Elephant in the Bedroom".
  • Even the Girls Want Her: The number of "I would go lesbian for Rachel Maddow" comments on YouTube has to be seen to believed.
  • Fox News Liberal: Usually avoids this. However, she once cited a bill by then-Senator Olympia Snowe (Republican of Maine) to try to prove conservatives flip-flopped on contraception mandates in Catholic charities. This didn't take into account that Olympia Snowe is considered a moderate, and thus it's not particularly odd for her to hold more centrist or left-wing positions than her more conservative counterparts in the Republican Party.
  • Friendly Rivalry:
    • She has one with Fox News anchor Shep Smith, mostly because he's only her 'enemy' in that he works for her biggest competition. They're actually friendly in real life, with Smith even nominating her for the Ice Bucket Challenge, and have expressed mutual respect and admiration for each other.note 
      Shep Smith: Everything in this thing we do to me is Ole Miss and LSU. I love Ole Miss; I hate LSU. And that's how MSNBC and Fox News viewers are, and I understand it and I respect it because I hate LSU.
    • Similarly, when she showed a clip of "my friend Greta van Susteren" (also a Fox News anchor), she went out of her way to clarify that, no, she and Greta actually are friends, despite their differing political opinions.
    • She is genuinely friends with conservative talk radio host Michael Medved, a fact which is obvious whenever Medved appears on her show.
  • Friendship Moment: Though their interactions are always very warm, Rachel usually restricts displaying her feelings for Richard Engel to her face and voice alone. When he makes his first appearance in the studio after being kidnapped in Syria, though, Rachel kicks all restraint to the curb and openly hugs him — warmly, and not briefly — live on camera. It was adorable.
    Rachel: ...but mostly I'm just grateful that you're back. [she hugs him]
    Richard: [pleasantly surprised] Aawww, thank you. [he hugs her back]
  • Genki Girl: She can get into this mode at times.
  • The Glasses Gotta Go: She was told that she couldn't wear glasses on the air, so she got contacts for the first time in her life when she got her MSNBC show. That said, she can still be seen wearing them during most pre-taped interviews and other pre-taped segments.
  • Goofy Suit: Rachel evidently has a phobia of these. She devoted an entire segment to the arguably over-realistic goat-costumed recycling mascot of Niagra Falls, New York. She specifically called it "Nightmare Fuel," which lends yet more credence to the idea that she is One of Us.
  • Gosh Dang It to Heck!: Rachel isn't afraid to cuss sometimes, but on air she tends to avoid using coarse language when she can, most notably using the aforementioned "Bullpuckey" epithet.
    Richard Engel: [after being asked to come back to the show] ...and will you say 'bullpuckey'?
    Rachel: Yes! But never accusingly at you.
  • Hard-Drinking Party Girl: Referenced. She's not an alcoholic, but Rachel does have an appreciation for the art of mixing drinks, which she regularly has segments on. (Don't use anything but real lemon juice squeezed from lemons if you know what's good for you!)
    "...the right to buy a beer is not enshrined in the constitution (because I haven't founded my own country yet)."
  • Held Gaze: Platonic variant. Though Rachel's eyes usually flick back and forth between her guest and the camera, or between her guest and the notes in her hand/on the desk, there are moments during her in-studio interviews with Richard Engel in which they're focused entirely on each other, their close, long-standing friendship easily visible without Rachel's or Richard's trademark professionalism glazing over it.
  • Hero with Bad Publicity: Her perception of the Democrats.
  • I Am Not Pretty: Rachel, self-described as "a big lesbian who looks like a man," has a habit of deprecating her own looks, apparently entirely unaware of the fact that she's actually quite gorgeous. Yes, Rachel, even with the glasses and hair. And even in an oversized hoodie. And even in Bifauxnen mode!
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: Upon occasion, and she'll mix her own drinks.
  • Important Haircut: Had long blonde hair as a closeted teenager.
  • Intrepid Reporter: She is in awe of Richard Engel's career reporting from the heart of war zones and the bravery he's displayed therein, but as he's also one of her dearest friends, she also worries terribly about his safety, given that his entire career consists of him going to places very likely to get him killed. While resigned to the fact that she doesn't get to see him in person nearly as much as she would like, she clearly relishes every time she can speak with him — especially when he's in the studio with her.
    Rachel: NBC's chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel is here, here in America, here in New York. He has just returned from Syria, which is not something that very many people in the world can say right now.
    We're lucky to have Richard here because he's almost never here. For the last decade, he's reported from Iraq and Afghanistan and Gaza and Lebanon. At one point, I e-mailed him to ask if he wanted to get together, and he e-mailed back that he was on his way to Timbuktu. [resignedly] Because that's Richard's life. ....Richard, thanks for being here.
    Richard: Oh, wow, it's good to be here with you.
  • It Will Never Catch On: In 2008, Ezra Klein predicted that Maddow, then still a radio personality, would never become a cable TV host in The American Prospect. That Klein now regularly appears on her show makes this doubly Hilarious in Hindsight.
  • The Knights Who Say "Squee!":
    • Rachel may be a critically-lauded, award-winning television host, but even she descends into squee when she talks about Andrea Mitchell, describing her with phrases like "fantastic" and "incredible".
    • Rachel, apparently unaware that she is one of the biggest and most respected names in cable news, was absolutely gleeful to get U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power into her studio for an interview. (Power herself, on the other side of the desk, found the squeeing rather amusing.)
    • Quite aside from being one of his closest friends, Rachel thinks the world of Richard Engel. Every time she discusses him, his career, or his latest hair-raising escapade, she just can't stop herself from going on about how amazing she thinks he is.
    • Generally speaking, she gets positively gleeful when she lands an interview guest who is important or unlikely or both. Examples include Hillary Clinton and Bill Bogert (a Republican actor who filmed a lengthy anti-Goldwater spot entitled "Confessions of a Republican" during the 1964 race).
  • Lady Looks Like a Dude: With her short hair, traditionally masculine clothes, and slim profile, she definitely qualifies.
  • Lesbian Vampire: According to this guy, at least. Rachel herself appears to find this highly amusing.
    Rachel: Oh no! They're onto me! *swirls cape*
  • Lighter and Softer: Compared to her counterparts across the political spectrum, Rachel is (usually) very calm and collected, and more than willing to be facetious, particularly compared to Cenk Uygur (he was far more vocal in his criticism than she can be). To anyone used to, say, Glenn Beck or Keith Olbermann, her tone will either be refreshing or downright disarming.
  • Mama Bear: YOU WILL GIVE RESPECT TO AFGHAN AND IRAQ WAR VETS (AND MAYBE A TICKER-TAPE PARADE). MOST OF ALL DON'T MESS WITH THEM. EVER.
  • My Friends... and Zoidberg: Inverted. At one point she described Fox News as employing mostly Republican presidential candidates and their patrons, plus "a couple of journalists named Shep Smith and Greta Van Susteren" (thus implying that none of the other hosts were anything of the kind).
  • No Pronunciation Guide: Her last name rhymes with "shadow". Also, when Blackwater rebranded itself Xe Services, Maddow decided it should be pronounced "she".
    • She also once mispronounced the name of the Mackinac Group, a conservative think tank, as "Mac-in-ack" instead of "Mac-in-aw," its proper pronunciation. She later corrected this on her show.
    • Once mispronounced singer Kesha's name as "Kee-sha," apologizing the following night, with the notice that she is apparently now old.
  • "Not Making This Up" Disclaimer: On occasion.
  • Not So Different: Frequently invoked even by some on her own side, something she strongly resents, and probably has the strongest case against of all the MSNBC left-wingers.
  • Pass the Popcorn: Like Anderson Cooper, she broke out the popcorn at the height of the Rod Blagojevichnote  drama.
  • Platonic Declaration of Love: Rachel declares that "unhappily for us who know and love Richard [Engel]", he had earlier that day filed some footage depicting him far too close for comfort to an incoming bomb. Rachel usually keeps her feelings about individual guests mostly to herself, but not with Engel.
  • Platonic Life Partners: Rachel and NBC's Chief Foreign Correspondent Richard Engel. The warmth between them is easily palpable every time they share a screen, no matter where in the world Richard happens to be. Their on-air reunion after he came home from being kidnapped in Syria was beautiful to behold.
  • The Promise: Rachel made a rule shortly after the 2012 presidential election to never talk about the 2016 election (or at least, to wait until people actually started announcing their candidacies). But then, on October 25th, 2013, she was forced to break this rule when Ted Cruz went to Iowa.note 
  • Punny Name: Many of the titles of the segments on her show. A regular example is "Ms. Information", devoted to covering what Maddow describes as "Holy Mackerel stories" in the news. Also, "Rachel: Re".
  • Qurac: While in Iraq visiting Richard Engel — who had also been her (un)official tour guide in Afghanistan — she joked that she thinks of the Middle East as "Engelstan" because he'd spent so much time there and been with her so often during her live reports from both Kabul and Baghdad.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Maddow has been the Blue Oni to the hot-blooded personalities who've aired before her, first Keith Olbermann, later Ed Schultz. Lawrence O'Donnell, meanwhile, has become something of a "Purple Oni" between the two of them, having both Schultz's penchant for melodrama and Maddow's keen and calm attention to detail.
  • Running Gag:
    • She often pretends to fall asleep in the middle of saying Tim Pawlenty's name.
    • "The 'John Boehner Is Bad At His Job' Hypothesis"
    • "Jobs, jobs, jobs. By which I mean abortion." Also a Catch Phrase.
    • "Rrrrrreince Prrriebus!"
    • "Bullpuckey alert!"
    • Richard Engel wants his $20 back.Context 
    • Rachel would just love to interview [politician who disagrees with her].
  • Sarcasm Mode: A common tool for her to show her anger (or amusement) over a topic, which is sometimes the only way to tell she's angry about something.
  • Self-Deprecation: She often goes out of her way to highlight criticism of herself/her show, especially if she thinks it's Actually Pretty Funny, like the right wing parody of her Hoover Dam promo.
  • Serious Business: Cocktails. Rachel will often describe variants on a cocktail she is making with, "Some people use [x]", and then immediately follow it up with, "These people are wrong." She takes her alcohol very seriously, to the extent that she owns a fully-stocked bar and occasionally ends her episodes with a "Cocktail Moment". (She does, however point out that she's not a 'real bartender', citing among other things the fact that she can't work nearly as fast.)
  • Shout-Out: In a tribute to this very wiki, a graphic for a story on US Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford read "Ambadassador''.
  • Shown Their Work: She makes sure she can back up all her facts, and when she does make a mistake, she will correct herself promptly.
  • Sincerity Mode:
    • Back in 2010, Rachel began a live show (one with a studio audience) with the words, "And now, let us praise the Fox News Channel". Her audience, naturally, laughed, thinking she was kidding. Then she played a clip of Fox News anchor Shep Smith demanding answers from a Republican Senator about GOP opposition to the 9/11 first responders health care bill. After the clip ended, she said, "All hail Shep Smith at Fox News and I'm not kidding." This time her audience cheered, realizing that she had been entirely serious, and Rachel went on to explain that Smith had been making a "hullabaloo" on his show about why the GOP was blocking the bill — a hullabaloo that promptly spread to pretty much everyone else on the channel. As Rachel pointed out, being Fox News, Republican politicians would actually return their calls — which meant that those Senators were under fire from their pet news channel. "All hail Shep Smith" indeed!
    • While her signature "thank you for being here"/"thank you for your time" to guests is always genuine — even when she totally disagrees with said guest, she does appreciate the time they give her — it's especially sincere whenever she says it to frequent guest (and dear friend) Richard Engel, particularly given the danger Engel tends to find himself in. Similarly, Engel's trademark warm responses of "Absolutely" or "My pleasure" convey that it's not just 'pleasant' speaking with her, but a genuine pleasure to be talking with someone he is personally so close to.
  • Special Guest: Kent Jones, a recurring guest, who carried over from her Air America show.
  • Squee!: Rachel seems remarkably prone to this where babies are involved.
    • She can't help but let out an excited "Guh!" while congratulating Senator Sherrod Brown on his newborn grandson when a photo of said newborn came up on the screen. In her defense, the baby really is that darned cute.
    • She was equally squeeful on both occasions when her friend and fellow anchor Chris Hayes (aka Lambchop) "had a baby Lambchop", being reduced to nearly-incoherent squee by both his daughter Ryan and son David.
  • Stealth Parody: She thought Herman Cain's presidential campaign was one, citing Cain's quoting Pokémon: The First Movie in a debate, having a tax plan apparently inspired by SimCity and referencing an out-of-production Baskin Robbins ice cream flavor, among other things.
  • Straight Gay: In terms of personality, not appearance (given that she has a short hairstyle, and wears fairly masculine suits on-air). That said, she regularly covers LGBT issues and stories, usually giving them more attention than other media outlets do.
  • The Thing That Would Not Leave: Lampshaded hilariously in Rachel's account of how one particular story regarding Iraqi elections ended up on her show. Richard Engel happened to be in town, which he almost never is, so when he swung by her daily rundown meeting to say hello to everyone, everyone enthusiastically said 'hello' back. But then, in Rachel's words, "he didn't leave." He just hung around the meeting until Rachel, overcome by curiosity, asked, "Richard, is there something you'd like to add to the meeting?" At which point Richard let out a Big "YES!" and started excitedly explaining The Very Huge Deal That Just Happened in Iraq. (And when Rachel noticed his hand twitching and handed him a whiteboard marker, he diagrammed it.) When he finished explaining the Huge Deal, a very impressed Rachel basically said, "Yeah, you're coming on my show tonight." And thus Richard got to tell all of her viewers about the Huge Deal by parking himself in her rundown meeting and counting on their long-standing friendship and Rachel's innate curiosity to do the rest.
    Rachel: Richard, thank you for hijacking our meeting today.
  • Tranquil Fury: Never raises her voice or is less than polite to anyone she is interviewing.
    • This includes her interview with the sponsor of Uganda's "Kill the Gays" bill. This is really impressive when you consider that the person she is interviewing is telling her to her face that he thinks she ought to be put to death.
      Rachel (100% Deadpan): It is more than your opinion, it is what has made you internationally famous, and it may be the thing ultimately that results in you being tried for crimes against humanity in some sort of international tribunal. If that happens, sir, I wish you luck in your defense, but I don't expect it to go far.
    • Freshman Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) decided to lecture twenty-year veteran Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) about the Constitution and gun control. For reference, when Mayor of San Francisco George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk were shot and killed in 1978, Dianne Feinstein – then President of the Board of Supervisors, immediately thereafter Acting Mayor – was the one who had to put her fingers in the bullet holes to check for a pulse. Rachel took the opportunity to elucidate exactly why an assault weapons ban is desperately needed, and she was absolutely furious.
      Rachel: Let the record show that you can be a United States senator for twenty-one years. You can be seventy-nine years old. You can be the chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and one of the most recognizable and widely-respected veteran public servants in your nation. But if you are female while all of those things, men who you defeat in arguments will still respond to you by calling you hysterical and telling you to calm down. They’ll patronize you and say they admire your passion, sweetie, but they deal in facts, not your silly girly feelings. It’s inescapable. You can set your watch by it.
  • Trrrilling Rrrs: Whenever she says "Reince Priebus".
  • Unusual Euphemism: "Schtupping." More specifically, this word, when used on her show, generally has a connotation of "Your relationship with this other person is kind of sketchy and generally deserving of a side-eye and will probably result in a scandal at some point, if it hasn't already, which I will cover with absolute glee and possibly popcorn." See: the John Ensign scandal, the Anthony Wiener scandal, the David Petraeus scandal...
  • Viewers Are Geniuses: Rachel tries to explain everything carefully, but her show's format tends to take a more minimalistic, academic approach compared to the flashy graphics of other shows.
  • The Villain Knows Where You Live: As noted on the April, 25, 2014 edition of The Rachel Maddow Show, during the 1975 trial for attempting to kill US President Gerald Ford, Manson Family member Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme threatened the judge, mentioning the piano in the front room of his house. Maddow notes that the judge's security detail was increased after that. The incident was also mentioned in a panel discussion among some of the trial's participants (at about the 50-minute mark).
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: A lighthearted version with Keith Olbermann; they were always teasing each other and tossing playful insults back and forth, but were fiercely protective of each other.
    Keith: [after returning from suspension] ...and of course, let me thank dear Rachel, for saying so much when saying anything would have been enough.
  • With Due Respect: A segment discussing just how wrong Paul Wolfowitz was about — well, everything — was titled, "With All Due Respect, Please Shut Your Pie Hole." (Obviously, no respect was actually intended.)


Alternative Title(s): Rachel Maddow

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Series/TheRachelMaddowShow