Is This British Man the New Larry King?

Larry King's contract runs out in 2011. Who will replace him? It looks increasingly likely that it will be this man: Piers Morgan, the British television personality familiar to US viewers as the guy who won Celebrity Apprentice in 2008.

The Telegraph is reporting that Piers Morgan is close to signing a $2.1 million/year deal with CNN to take over King's spot. Piers Morgan is a singularly British product of the reality television-tabloid complex. He was an editor of super-sleazy tabloid The Daily Mirror for almost a decade before quitting being fired and focusing on his television career—a career fostered mainly by Simon Cowell. In England, he judges Britain's Got Talent along with Cowell and has hosted a number of television specials. In America, he judges America's Got Talent and sometimes fills in on NBC's Today Show. He also won the first season of Celebrity Apprentice.

As you can see, he is very different from Larry King. Where Larry King comes from boring journalism, Piers Morgan comes from the world of entertainment—or entertainment masquerading as journalism. Piers Morgan loves starting feuds with other celebrities. Larry King gave up feuding when pistol duels fell out of fashion. Piers Morgan dresses in slick Italian suits; Larry King wears prescription suspenders. On British television, Morgan conducts flashy interviews on stage in front of a large crowd, late-night style; Larry King's interviews may or may not take place in a small pressurized capsule orbiting the Earth.

In the end, Piers Morgan would be a good move for CNN if it wants to increase ratings and doesn't mind furthering its transformation into an insipid celebrity-fueled social networking machine which also happens to be good at breaking news. To the extent that people are still watching Larry King Live, they watch to be dazzled by the shiny celebrities he somehow manages to convince to come on his show. (Thanks to LeBron James and Barack Obama, King actually posted strong ratings last week.) Piers Morgan is a shiny celebrity. (via djmbm)