Congratulations on your premiere, Piers Morgan. But…
I have to admit that I was disappointed when I read over the weekend that CNN’s new one hour, primetime talk show is pre-taped and carefully constructed.
All this time, since the announcement that Larry King was leaving his nightly program to make way for British interview Piers Morgan, I’d assumed the show would share a similar real-time format with “Larry King Live.” I was looking forward to the launch.
In fact, CNN and Morgan are positioning the new show, “Piers Morgan Tonight,” in opposition to the King program. “For all his deference to his predecessor, Mr. Morgan is in many ways the anti-King — obnoxious, obsessively prepared and eager to tape his interviews in advance as often as he can,” the NY Times’ Brian Stelter wrote.
So, I watched Morgan’s first show tonight featuring a conversation with Oprah Winfrey. Don’t get me wrong, Morgan did a fine job even if it seemed that Oprah was in the driver’s seat the entire time. Not unlike any great interview subject, Oprah knew what she was going to give him and she let him in on her terms. Fine. It was solid television. But, that’s exactly where the show also failed.
While Larry King didn’t come across as a shrewd, calcuated interviewer, he was a willing conversationalist and his subjects would walk the tight rope of live television right along with him. His role was often more of an air traffic controller for a variety of views and inquiries, however basic at times. Sure King’s questions were occasionally simple and hilarious, especially when he barked them out unexpectedly. But, there was inherent drama in the knowledge that the live program might go somewhere unique. Particularly when it would assemble a panel of experts to speak about a hot topic of the day, King’s show offered a water cooler moment and an immediate assessment during times of breaking news. Wherever I was in the world, I’d often tune in to reconnect with a breaking story or a celebrity conversation. The show delivered a generally soft spoken, often entertaining respite from the rest of cable TV’s on air battles. I guess I miss “Larry King Live” for the same reasons I was sad to see Ted Koppel leave “Nightline.” And, based on the ratings, maybe that’s just not what people want to watch.
I’ll certainly give Piers Morgan another chance — after all, he’s only aired one show — but I guess I realized tonight that I wasn’t looking for the opposite of Larry King.