Larry King signs off
After a quarter of a century (and more than 6,000 shows), CNN's “Larry King Live” ended its run Thursday night.
“It’s not very often in my life that I’ve been without words,” King, clad in red suspenders and a red-and-white polka-dot tie, said at the close of his show. “I never thought it would last this long or come to this.”
A gathering spot for ambitious politicians and repentant celebrities for 25 years, the cable news network's showpiece in prime time bid adieu with a gaggle of guests, with King protege Ryan Seacrest serving as a veritable ringmaster. Bill Maher and Phil McGraw ("Dr. Phil") joined Seacrest and King in the L.A. studio; others including President Obama, former President Clinton, Katie Couric, Donald Trump, Regis Philbin and Tony Bennett joined in via satellite.
At the start of the show, Maher cautioned against eulogizing King: "This is the end of a show, not the end of this man.”
While some people have criticized the veteran host’s interview style over the course of his career as too lenient or lacking in preparation, on Thursday night he was king.
As he rested his chin on his hand, his trademark move, each guest lauded his impact on broadcast TV. Brian Williams, host of “NBC Nightly News,” noted how King’s show was “America’s confessional.” Veteran broadcaster Barbara Walters joked that his departure meant less competition for her. The Rev. Billy Graham, in a letter read by Seacrest, said King’s absence would be “greatly missed in my evening routine.”
There’s no denying King's gift for gab: He's done nearly 50,000 interviews in a broadcasting career that included a stint in radio prior to joining CNN.
But the tech-savvy 77-year-old host announced in late June, via Twitter, that he would end his nightly CNN gig. King is not abandoning the network completely; he will host specials on CNN.
His decision to sign off from his evening duties comes as the network has experienced a steep decline in the ratings this year. CNN for the year to date ranks in third place in prime time, and is a distant No. 2 to Fox News in total-day ratings (1.1 million vs. 435,000 average). Once cable TV’s top-rated program, “Larry King Live” averaged just 700,000 viewers this year.
Despite King's broadcasting legacy, the end of his reign was met without hullabaloo from the channel he spearheaded. The CNN promotion machine, instead, has switched its focus to the future of the network: British talk show host and "America's Got Talent" judge Piers Morgan, who will take over the time slot in January with “Piers Morgan Tonight.”
But King, after all, is a minimalist. In his signature style, he ended things simply: “Instead of goodbye, how about ‘so long’?
Always asking the questions.
-- Yvonne Villarreal
Photo: Larry King. Credit: CNN