Maybe it’s because America’s Got Talent makes my brain want to crawl under the couch and turn into a ball of dust, but Piers Morgan generally fills me with mild-to-moderate ambivalence. Yeah, he does that British bitchy/dismissive thing in a totally competent way, but it’s always been hard for me to think of him as anything other than the poor man’s Simon Cowell. Because, well, in the world of reality TV judging, that’s kind of what he is.
But, of course, it’s not Morgan’s ability to dismiss a bad juggling act with a giant red ‘X’ and a buzzer that’s got the NY Post buzzing that CNN is eying him for a spot in its prime-time lineup. Before kicking off his second act as a reality show judge (America’s Got Talent in 2006, and the subsequent Britain’s Got Talent alongside Cowell in 2007) and contestant (he won Celebrity Apprentice in 2008), Morgan had a long and successful career in the British newspaper business; likely more relevant to CNN brass, though, is that he also achieved success across the pond as host of Piers Morgan’s Life Stories, an interview program taped in front of a live audience.
Now, it has to be said that CNN issued a statement dismissing rumors earlier this week that Morgan was being eyed to replace Larry King in the 9 p.m. ET hour: “Not surprisingly, there is no shortage of people who would love to succeed Larry King if and when he moves on, but rumors that we are close to signing a deal for a Larry King replacement are untrue. We are currently looking at replacing our 8 p.m. program and that is our priority. Larry is a beloved member of the team, and he will continue to be part of the CNN family into the future.” But reading between the lines, CNN is still leaving a lot of room for some Piers Morgan action — both in the 8 p.m. hour, not to mention the “if/when” of Larry King moving on, no?
I checked out a YouTube clip of a Piers Morgan’s Life Stories interview with Simon Cowell (embedded below) and was impressed by the way the host used humor and oddball topics (i.e. details of Cowell’s dressing-room rider) to shed light on the human side of the larger-than-life TV personality. And while the old curmudgeon in me is grumbling about a weird America’s Got Talent-to-CNN leap, the realist in me recognizes that the line between news and entertainment gets blurrier and blurrier every day. Anderson Cooper used to host The Mole. Julie Chen holds down the fort on both CBS’ Early Show and summer staple reality show Big Brother. And while Larry King’s legacy as an interviewer is a long one, I’m not sure anyone would argue that he’s currently operating at the top of his game. Would Piers Morgan be an upgrade? (Quite possibly.) Would Piers Morgan be a disaster? (Unlikely.) Was Piers Morgan recently defeated by Hot Pockets (and Jenny McCarthy) in my pal Annie Barrett’s recent Lunchtime Poll about hot television commodities? (Um, yes.)
Aha! There’s my old ambivalence cropping up again.
So riddle me this: Do we really want Piers Morgan on CNN? Make your case for or against in the comments below!