Booked to fill Larry King's suspenders: Piers Morgan, 'America's Got Talent' judge

Larry King, CNN's iconic talk show host, hung up his suspenders Thursday after 25 years in the interviewer's chair.
By Lisa de Moraes
Thursday, September 9, 2010

CNN's Got Talent.

The ratings-hungry cable news network has finally ended months of speculation, confirming that Brit tabloid journalist Piers Morgan, best known in the United States as one of the judges on NBC's "America's Got Talent," will replace Larry King at 9 p.m. weeknights, starting in January.

CNN, however, focused on the "global media personality" and "veteran newspaper editor"-ness of Morgan's background in making Wednesday's announcement.

Which fell on deaf ears with The Reporters Who Cover Television, who worked up a good head of outrage on a phone news call with Morgan and CNN/U.S. president Jon Klein, over the very idea that CNN was giving to a talent-show host the time slot held for years by the iconic King -- who refuses to be prepped before interviews by his senior executive because he wants to be surprised, and whose proclaimed replacement of choice was Ryan Seacrest.

Morgan's as-yet-unnamed show will debut early next year -- a few weeks after King signs off. While Morgan's show will air on CNN International in more than 200 countries, the big hope is that Morgan's cheeky style will goose the ratings domestically on the cable news network, which fumbled nearly 50 percent of its prime-time audience in August compared to a year ago.

Which brings us to Morgan's official acceptance speech for his long-rumored hire, which was issued to the press early Wednesday:

"As a young journalist in Britain, I watched CNN's astonishing live coverage of the 1991 Gulf War, and felt enthralled by the courage and brilliance of the journalists involved in that coverage," Morgan emoted.

"Years later, I watched Anderson Cooper's visceral reports from New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, and felt equally enthralled by his passionate and relentless search for the truth. Perhaps most pertinently, I have watched 'Larry King Live' for much of the last 25 years, and dreamed of one day filling the legendary suspenders of the man I consider to be the greatest TV interviewer of them all."

Eve Harrington couldn't have said it any better. ("All About Eve," people!)

CNN acknowledged that Morgan is best known in this country as That Simon Cowell-esque Judge on the NBC show "America's Got Talent," and lest it be responsible for any surfeit of cranky Brits, the network was quick to point out that we like them, we really like them. CNN said the Cowell-produced, Morgan-judged show was "No. 1-rated," impetuously deciding to leave out the important qualifier "during the summer."

It was this gig that had Reporters Who Cover Television in a froth on an afternoon conference call with Morgan and Klein. That included one media columnist who wanted to know what CNN was thinking naming someone "not a journalist" to the gig.

"Slow down!" Morgan snapped. "You can't glibly call me a non-journalist."

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