[Bianculli here: Contributing critic P.J. Bednarski has read the list of rumored front-runners for Larry King's soon-to-be-vacant job at CNN, and he's not impressed. In fact, he's somewhat irritated...]
Apparently someone -- in addition to Piers Morgan's agent, his family and Piers Morgan himself -- believes that this British star of America's Got Talent,
our nation's favorite derivative reality competition series, needs a second career as the new host of CNN's Larry King Live.
I read he's in line for the job, in a New York Times
story by Brian Stelter and Bill Carter.
Immediately, some things are clear. If CNN has to tap Piers Morgan, then America must not have as much as talent as is commonly believed. And clearly, the agents for many other no-profile journalists or marginal "personalities" have dropped the ball because they might have thought CNN was looking for someone more... substantial.
No. It could have been any of us, with the probable exception of anyone who has been or will become one of the Real Housewives anywhere. Fact is, there are a lot of relatively unknown and/or inappropriate people who could replace King. There's a world of them out there -- many of them in this country.
More to the point: IF Piers Morgan, a British tabloid journalist turned minor star of an American television series, is considered a replacement for King, then it really is true: CNN has lost its way.
This is a very bad idea.
Someone quoted in the Times story said that, historically, "almost every other UK TV import has been hugely successful" in the States. Stelter and Carter didn't examine that statement. But let's count the ones who are "hugely successful": Simon Cowell, David Frost, Craig Ferguson.
Then there's Anne Robinson, host of NBC's Weakest Link. For about 10 minutes starting in 2001, she captivated us. Oh. And Alistair Cooke. Google him.
I'm losing count, and I'm probably missing a few. But I don't think it's true that out there in the America that television serves and simultaneously disdains, many people have been saying, "Well, it's obvious. With Larry King going, only game show judge Piers Morgan canstep in."Even Vegas oddsmakers were blindsided.
(To be really honest, NPR's Fresh Air host Terry Gross would make sense. To be honest again, she might be too smart. Even when she does celebrity interviews, she asks thoughtful questions.)
Fox News, which trounces CNN, wraps itself around the American flag. Fox ought to murder CNN for this Piers Morgan thing, even if it is a network owned by an Australian who had to become an American to be allowed to own TV stations in this country.
Still, I think it's fair to say that, on a day-to-day basis, Americans like lurid tales of fallen politicians, insights about breast implants, and chats with stars of fabulous movies that open this Friday at theaters everywhere, on a program fronted by an American host, or one who sounds like one.
News organizations have jettisoned thousands of people in the last decade. Most of them are highly qualified, and some are like me. But if it must be a dumb-down hour, can't CNN find an average -- and I mean average -- American journalist to give this job to? I think it must pay well.
P.J. Bednarski is the former executive editor of Broadcasting & Cable and longtime TV critic and contributor to TVWW. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.