He may have gotten out of touch, he may have been famously unprepared for his interviews, and he may have been responsible for his show hemorrhaging viewers to average underwhelming 700,000 a night, but Larry King is still an institution. After more than 25 years and about 50,000 guests, the 77-year-old interviewer tonight will host the final installment of Larry King Live, his primetime talk show on CNN. More than a dozen guests are expected to stop by, including King’s pals Ryan Seacrest, whom he tipped as his potential successor, and Bill Maher. Here a reel with some the highlights of his tenure on the show put together by CNN. It includes the famous 1993 debate between Al Gore and Ross Perot that drew a record audience of 20 million, as well as King’s live coverage of the O.J. Simpson car chase and the Marlon Brando kiss. It doesn’t include the lowlights, like when he confused Ringo Starr with the late George Harrison in a 2007 interview with the surviving Beatles members. Or when he got ripped by Jerry Seinfeld for suggesting Seinfeld might have been canceled (above).
For someone who has been the face of the network for the past 25 years, you’d think CNN would have handled the departure of veteran Larry King with a little bit more dignity and respect. But a series of CNN blunders have surrounded both King’s exit from his talk show and the search for his successor. First, the network started feeling out potential replacements long before King announced on June 29th that he would be leaving the show in November. In theory, that’s not a bad idea — Larry King Live had been the cornerstone of CNN’s primetime lineup, and management had to secure a strong successor in the 9 PM slot before it let King step down. But it was also a very risky strategy as proven by the June 12th leaks in UK papers that America’ Got Talent judge Piers Morgan, a Brit, was finalizing a deal to replace King. It was a blow to Larry, who had just celebrated his 25th anniversary at CNN and deserved a proper send-off.
But there was more humiliation in store for the veteran talk-show host. Instead of organizing the announcement of King’s exit in the two weeks following the first wave of Piers Morgan/CNN stories, the network waited until June 29th, the day the Q2 ratings come out. CNN knew they wouldn’t be pretty: King already …
Frequent showbiz interviewer and newsmaker Larry King announced today he’ll exit CNN “Larry King Live” after 25 years on air. His last show will be in November but he’ll produce quarterly specials afterwards under his new contract. Here is King’s statement:
“Before I start the show tonight, I want to share some personal news with you. Twenty five years ago, I sat across this table from New York Governor Mario Cuomo for the first broadcast of Larry King Live. Now, decades later, I talked to the guys here at CNN and I told them I would like to end Larry King Live, the nightly show, this fall and CNN has graciously accepted, giving me more time for my wife and I to get to the kids’ little league games. I’ll still be a part of the CNN family, hosting several Larry King specials on major national and international subjects.
“I’m incredibly proud that we recently made the Guinness Book of World Records for having the longest running show with the same host in the same time slot. With this chapter closing I’m looking forward to the future and what my next chapter will bring, but for now it’s time to hang up my nightly suspenders.”