Monday, February 24, 2014

Piers Morgan gets the boot from CNN's prime 9 pm slot

By Michael J.W. Stickings

David Carr at the Times:

There have been times when the CNN host Piers Morgan didn't seem to like America very much — and American audiences have been more than willing to return the favor. Three years after taking over for Larry King, Mr. Morgan has seen the ratings for "Piers Morgan Live" hit some new lows, drawing a fraction of viewers compared with competitors at Fox News and MSNBC.

It's been an unhappy collision between a British television personality who refuses to assimilate — the only football he cares about is round and his lectures on guns were rife with contempt — and a CNN audience that is intrinsically provincial. After all, the people who tune into a cable news network are, by their nature, deeply interested in America.

CNN's president, Jeffrey Zucker, has other problems, but none bigger than Mr. Morgan and his plum 9 p.m. time slot. Mr. Morgan said last week that he and Mr. Zucker had been talking about the show's failure to connect and had decided to pull the plug, probably in March. 

Like so many others, I don't much care for Morgan. While it's true that he's never really been able to connect with American cable news audiences, and while it's good that he can acknowledge that, and while on some issues, like guns, I thought he was right to take a vehemently critical view (I share his views on America's out-of-control gun culture), for the most part he only really made a name for himself as Larry King's replacement by being a self-aggrandizing blowhard or a blatant ignoramus, often both at the same time.

Which isn't to say that he's been all that much worse than King, who was truly awful in his later years on the job, but at least King was a generally genial institution who didn't really rub anyone the wrong way and who could at least conduct shallow celebrity interviews with a modicum of entertainment value. But from the start Morgan wanted to be much more than that, something other than King, and is there that he's failed miserably to make a difference.

Maybe Morgan still has a future on American television, maybe even at CNN if he's used the right way, whatever that may be. But it's probably best for the network that he'll soon be out of the key 9 pm slot. And I say that not as someone who watches prime-time CNN, or for that matter much CNN at all anymore, but rather as someone who remembers what CNN once was, the value it once had as the country's main cable news network, back before the landscape was overtaken by partisanism, and who hopes that it might again regain that status as the go-to network for, you know, news.

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