Piers Morgan, the Man Who Would Be Larry King

Ever since Larry King announced his plans to retire at the end of June, people have made a fun parlor game of speculating about who’ll end up replacing him. Most people assumed King’s successor would either be Ryan Seacrest or “America’s Got Talent” judge Piers Morgan. Now it looks like Morgan will indeed be the one assuming hosting duties for King when he officially ends his run in the fall. The Hollywood Reporter says:

Reports surfaced Tuesday that Morgan is near a deal to land the coveted gig.

Sources caution that Morgan is still under contract and that CNN may be unable to directly negotiate with the TV personality directly. But if a deal could be struck between CNN and NBC, that allows Morgan to take over the position.

Sources say the proposed deal allows for Morgan to remain as a judge on "Got Talent," with the CNN talk show in second position for his schedule.

For a while, many people thought Joy Behar, an occasional King fill-in, would end up getting the gig (Behar has her own show on Headline News). But all signs point to Morgan now. There’s no reason for NBC for keep Morgan from taking over the job. It only increases his profile for his appearances on “Talent.”

With the hiring of Morgan, CNN is clearly trying to keep the tone and collegiality of “Larry King Live” intact. It’s no secret that King has been getting hammered in the ratings of late, unable to keep pace with his more bombastic rivals on Fox News and MSNBC. Behar, who isn't shy about making her liberal views known, would have represented a departure from King’s non-confrontational style.

Instead, the original cable news outlet is apparently going with Morgan, who has done plenty of interviewing on his own British talk show, which is recorded in front of an audience. Morgan may ask more pointed questions than King, but it’s clear that he shares King’s desire to be warm to guests. He won’t shout guests off the air, the way Fox's Bill O'Reilly does.

Will Morgan succeed? Truthfully, probably not. It won’t be Morgan’s fault. CNN has had an identity crisis ever since Fox and MSNBC declared open war on one another. Most people who are going to watch news programming in the middle of primetime are likely to be people with strong opinions on issues, which means picking a liberal network (MSNBC) or a conservative one (Fox) to suit your tastes. Compared to those two, CNN is pretty milquetoast. It’s noble to try and be the network of centrists, but that’s becoming an increasingly outmoded way of doing business in political media. One day, CNN is going to be forced to take a side, Piers Morgan or not.

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