Lawrence O’Donnell’s Last Word Kicks Off on MSNBC in First Place

The first episode of The Last Word, Lawrence O’Donnell’s new 10 p.m. show on MSNBC, beat both Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow in ratings Monday night. Mr. O’Donnell, like Ms. Maddow before him, got his on-air start at MSNBC as a guest host for Mr. Olbermann’s Countdown.

Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren doubled Mr. O’Donnell’s 10 p.m. ratings on his first night, according to TV Newser. In turn, Mr. O’Donnell more than doubled CNN’s Anderson Cooper.

Mr. O’Donnell’s first guest on Monday night was Vice President Joe Biden. In his second episode Tuesday night, Mr. O’Donnell interviewed Levi Johnston about his campaign to become mayor of Wasilla, Alaska.

“Do you believe evolution should be taught as an accepted scientiific principle, or one of several theories?” Mr. O’Donnell asked Mr. Johnston. He used the same questions that Katie Couric asked Sarah Palin during her campaign before the 2008 election.

Mr. Johnston sighed. “You’re kind of getting over my head on these things here. I don’t really know how to answer that question,” he said.

“That’s an answer, and that’s what I like — an honest politician who’s willing to say ‘I don’t know’ when he doesn’t know,” Mr. O’Donnell said.

New York Times television reporter Brian Stelter caught up with Mr. O’Donnell last week before his first episode. “It feels like we’re about three months away from being ready to go,” Mr. O’Donnell said (Mr. Stelter couldn’t tell if he was joking or not). Mr. O’Donnell, who was a writer and producer for The West Wing, has been working with Kurt Andersen on a pilot for HBO about the “rich media set in New York City,” according to The Times. Mr. O’Donnell said that if the show gets picked up he’ll be able to juggle HBO and The Last Word.

Levi Johnston on The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell:

Lawrence O’Donnell’s Last Word Kicks Off on MSNBC in First Place