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NBC’s Richard Engel steps out with themed series

NEW YORK — Foreign correspondent Richard Engel is borrowing Rachel Maddow’s MSNBC time slot on Friday nights over the next month for “On Assignment,” a series that sets aside cable news chatter for deeply reported stories about world affairs.

The first edition this week focuses on Vladimir Putin’s Russia, using the news hook of Putin’s meeting Friday with President Donald Trump.

“I’ve wanted to do something like this for a long time,” Engel said by phone this week from Iraq. He’s expanding some of the reporting he routinely does for NBC’s “Nightly News” for a longer format in a series loosely modeled on his November 2014 special on Kobani, Syria’s fight against ISIS.

The idea is for “On Assignment” to be a limited series, in television parlance. He’ll do four episodes over a month, then return periodically for more.

While Engel is expected to appear live for each show’s opening, an episode’s centerpiece will be prepared stories by him and other correspondents, tied together by theme. His second episode will focus on Iraq, hence his location for an interview this week.

“This is not just a studio show where I sit in a studio in New York or London and get a bunch of experts to pontificate about the subjects of the week,” he said.

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