The Big Picture

Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
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Piers Morgan will do anything to get CNN some ratings (except talk to Madonna)

January 18, 2011 | 12:27 pm

Piers_Morgan Judging from the way he's been generating media coverage left and right, if Piers Morgan doesn't cut it as Larry King's replacement on CNN, he can always make a good living running his own showbiz publicity firm.

Before "Piers Morgan Tonight" had even debuted Monday evening, Morgan was getting buzzed about everywhere in the blogosphere, largely thanks to his own wily PR efforts.

I had promised myself I wouldn't write anything about Morgan until I saw how he fared interviewing the peerless Howard Stern -- who appears on his show Tuesday night -- but even my resolve has crumbled in the face of Morgan's relentless self-promotion.

Every media blog seemed to pick up on a Piers-planted item about him asking Fox News owner Rupert Murdoch to appear on his show, which prompted the classic Murdochian response: "Your chances are less than zero. I wish you good luck, but I do not wish you success."

In Brian Stelter's New York Times profile Monday, Stelter revealed that Morgan had been so eagerly hustling him to do the story that after Morgan taped his interview with Oprah Winfrey, he tweeted Stelter: "Now that Oprah's calling me 'My toughest interview for 20 years,' shouldn't you be interviewing me for NYT to talk about it?"  

And now Morgan has shown up in Entertainment Weekly, offering his own exclusive blacklist of celebrities whom he has barred from appearing on his new show. Leading the list is Madonna, who has been in the Morgan doghouse for some time now. Morgan claims he would only lift his Madonna appearance ban if she were to issue a formal apology for "all the grief she's caused me by being Madonna."

Alas, Morgan makes no effort to explain why he would ban Madonna but happily spend an hour interviewing the forgettable Kid Rock, one of his upcoming guests. Most of the other names are people who either don't matter at all, like Howie Mandel, or only matter across the pond, like Cherie Blair and Heather Mills, whom Morgan claims he introduced to Paul McCartney at an awards show. The Mills-McCartney marriage ended badly, with Mills taking McCartney to the cleaners. Morgan says that McCartney has told his friends, "Thanks, Piers, you cost me $50 million."

Morgan, however, has picked on one media personage who could actually make this a fair fight, saying he has banned MSNBC's voluble top-rated host, Keith Olbermann. But why Olbermann? "Just because it would really annoy him. ... I know he gets wound up very easily. It's not a lifetime ban, just a temporary ban, designed to confuse and bemuse him and hopefully engender a violent reaction."

A violent reaction? I know Piers has had plenty of time to closely study his competition in the months leading up to his debut, but do you think it's possible that he's confused Keith Olbermann with Bill O'Reilly?

-- Patrick Goldstein

Photo: Piers Morgan at a luncheon in New York City to honor the film "The King's Speech."  Credit: Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images for the Weinstein Co.  

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