David Case in the New York Times has an excellent and well-balanced article about what will soon be the end of the career of Larry King. It will be hard, even for those of who no longer watch him, to imagine TV or at least CNN without him. But his time has passed, for sure, even though the network claims not to believe it.
It’s nice that the network is supportive of a talent that helped build its identity, but is this really how CNN wants this all to play out? It’s not as if the idea that Mr. King’s reign might end came out of nowhere. He has always been a bit of a cartoon, but a willing one, and he made for good television as he wobbled his way toward greater truths using a regular-guy approach to inordinately famous or newsworthy people. Not any more. On Thursday night, he took on BP’s Congressional testimony with four highly politicized commentators and failed to tame the lions. Each segment ended in unwatchable cross-talk. Earlier in the week, he stepped up on the gulf story by interviewing Sammy Kershaw, a country singer and candidate for lieutenant governor of Louisiana, but seemed powerless as Mr. Kershaw kidnapped the show by reading a windy infomercial about the glories of gulf seafood from notes scribbled on a piece of paper.
In the same week, his show tacked to the tabloid side of the news, with interviews of the family of the slain Peruvian woman, a death for which Joran van der Sloot has been charged. Mr. Van der Sloot is a suspect in the earlier, much followed disappearance of the Alabama teenager Natalee Holloway in Aruba. The interview was a weave of long pauses and odd pivots — “How well did you know your sister-in-law?” — that looked and sounded more like cable access than the work of a cable powerhouse.
That’s kind of sad. Case has an excellent idea about how this should play out:
Why not announce a yearlong victory lap for Mr. King? You could probably count on both Obamas, both Clintons, both George Bushes, both Martha and Jon Stewart, with maybe some Tiger, a little Oprah, all stopping by for some much deserved ring-kissing. The 25th anniversary week proved that Mr. King can still move the ratings with aggressive booking, and meanwhile CNN could negotiate with Mr. King to free up some nights for a kind of bake-off, a rolling audition of hopefuls.
Sounds like a plan to me.