Larry King always made his job look easy, but finding someone to fill his shoes will be decidedly difficult.
Say what you will about him, but the man had a unique place in the world of cable news. It’s easy to say King is a relic from a bygone era of journalism. The fact is that he managed to thrive long after many of his peers were unable to. Amid the Olbermanns and O’Reillys of the world, King stood out by being the exact opposite of confrontational. Yeah, King made a living lobbing softballs, but his guests often happily hung themselves on his show anyway. King was also a remarkably democratic interviewer. He treated every guest exactly the same, regardless if it was Darva Conger or Madeline Albright. That’s not an easy thing to do, particularly in a world where most people are expected to wear their personal opinions on their sleeves.
Is there anyone CNN can hire to fill King’s seat and keep the talk show legend’s style intact? Remember this about Larry King: EVERYONE went on his show. Everyone. It won’t be easy for someone else to step in and get the Oprahs of the world to spend an hour talking on CNN at night. The obvious choice here is Ryan Seacrest, who has guested for King many times and, according to Deadline, was endorsed by King himself last night. Other candidates mentioned were Piers Morgan, Katie Couric, Anderson Cooper, and Joy Behar. In my opinion, those last three candidates would be lousy choices. Both Behar and Couric are identified as strongly liberal journalists. Behar has fought with conservatives countless times over at “The View.” Cooper’s ratings have recently declined on CNN, and he’s also considered both liberal and overly confrontational.
Shockingly, Seacrest fits the profile to replace King perfectly. He’s a savvy fellow who knows how to make celebs feel comfortable. And the next public opinion he expresses will be his first. Also, unlike Morgan, he’s American.
Another consistent fill-in for King has been Bob Costas, who I think is probably at the top of CNN’s wishlist, along with Seacrest. Other past guest hosts for King have included Dan Rather (no way), Kermit the Frog (better odds than Rather), Wolf Blitzer (eh), Newt Gingrich (nope), Bill Maher (if CNN wanted to go in the exact opposite direction), Star Jones (no), Jimmy Kimmel (already spoken for), Glenn Beck (ditto), Kathie Lee Gifford (please no), and Dr. Drew.
In the end, I think it’s Seacrest’s show to lose. But regardless of who CNN hires, it will soon become evident that replacing Larry King isn’t anywhere near as easy as it looks. That ultimately will be King’s legacy. He made his job look embarrassingly easy. It isn’t.