After 25 years, King hangs it up – suspenders and all

2010-12-16 10:00

Early last June, CNN celebrated 25 years of Larry King Live with a week of shows whose A-list guests included President Barack Obama, LeBron James, Bill Gates and Lady Gaga.

It was hyped to the hilt and suitably eventful.

Then, at the end of June this year, King suddenly announced he was retiring from his show – a weeknight fixture since June 1, 1985.

He told viewers: “It’s time to hang up my nightly suspenders.”

After tonight’s edition, King will indeed hang it up, suspenders and all.

The lineup for this farewell hour should be stellar.

The promotion machine at a network can make noise over almost anything.

Having paid King his tribute last June, before he even said he would be stepping down, CNN is now treating him as a lame duck star, a chapter the network is rushing to move past.

The focus is on Piers Morgan, whom CNN named as the new guy in September. It is busily promoting his January debut.

Morgan (45), a British journalist and TV personality known in the US as a judge on NBC’s America’s Got Talent, promises that Piers Morgan Tonight will be “exciting and slightly dangerous”.

Yesterday’s news
King, who has never been exciting or dangerous nor tried to be, is clearly seen by CNN as yesterday’s news.

Sure, it would be easy to argue that the 77-year-old King waited too long to hang up those suspenders.

Once the leader in cable TV news, he now ranks third in his time slot behind Fox News Channel’s Sean Hannity and MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow.

His show was seen by 700 000 viewers this year, less than half the nightly audience in his peak year, 1998, when Larry King Live drew 1.64 million viewers.

As recently as 2003, he was averaging 1.54 million.

Wide-eyed and non-confrontational, King’s regular-guy approach to interviewing feels dated in an era of edgy, pushy or loaded questioning by other hosts.

It has become easy for the viewer to lose patience with his accommodating, hunched-at-his-desk Q-and-As. King’s occasional flubs have made him seem out of touch.

The end of Larry King Live is undeniably a cultural milestone, the end of a remarkable run. King is a pioneer in cable and a TV institution.

He has estimated that he’s conducted 50 000 interviews during his half-century-long broadcasting career.

And his nightly suspenders and the safe space he created for his guests won’t be missed after tonight.

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