It was as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror, “Cincinnati, hello?” and were suddenly silenced: Larry King officially wandered away from his CNN news desk last night, announcing that he plans to retire from the “nightly grind” of his 25-year-old interview program, Larry King Live, to spend more time getting to know whomever he’s married to these days and pondering the mysteries of life. King made the announcement at the top of Tuesday’s show, saying it was “time to hang up my nightly suspenders” and slip into his afternoon lounge suspenders for good. Also, Little League games.
The Wrap speculates that King’s decision may have been partially motivated by his “messy personal life,” pointing to those recent scandalous rumors that King had become romantically involved with his sister-in-law—an unlikely drama that nearly ended King’s marriage and reportedly drove his wife to “threaten to do harm to herself.” Gossipy musing aside, King’s decision also comes after a steep ratings decline in the past year, a drop that’s left the one-time titan a distant fourth behind usurpers like Sean Hannity, Rachel Maddow, and even Joy Behar.
And while this isn’t the end of King’s association with CNN—the network recently signed him to produce a series of quarterly specials—the race nevertheless is on to replace him. Former frontrunners for King’s chair include silver anchor-fox Anderson Cooper and Behar herself, while King has been heard stumping for Ryan Seacrest in recent months: “He’s curious, he’s interesting, and he’s likeable,” King told his guest Bill Maher, adding, “If he has a great interest in politics, I would recommend him. But I'm sure there's a ton of people who could do it. Come on, it's Q&A.” Katie Couric also recently turned down the job, although there are conflicting reports on whether she’s still in the running.
However, the British press seems to have scooped everyone when it first tipped America’s Got Talent judge Piers Morgan as King's heir apparent: Many other sources are now reporting that Morgan is “very close” to getting the job, with RadarOnline saying CNN has made it clear that he’s their “first choice” by dangling a possible $10 million contract in front of him. Before Morgan’s role as a token British bitchy judge, Morgan spent many years as a UK newspaper editor/tabloid tycoon, a career distinguished by outcries over insensitive headlines, using his paper’s stock column to inflate his own portfolio, and falling for hoax photos of what were purported to be tortured Iraqi prisoners.
Fired from The Mirror in 2004, Morgan then moved on to celebrity chat shows like The Importance Of Being Famous, The Dark Side Of Fame With Piers Morgan, and Piers Morgan’s Life Stories, as well as the travelogue series Piers Morgan On…, an era of increased visibility during which Morgan reveled in starting various feuds with his competitors—like calling rival host Jonathan Ross “a talentless little fuckwit”—and earned a reputation for being, in the words of Guardian TV critic Sam Wollaston, “a bit of a cock.” In short, he’s an ideal choice to host an American cable news program.