“Piers Morgan and CNN Plan End to His Prime-Time Show,” David Carr reports at the New York Times:
There have been times when the CNN host Piers Morgan didn’t seem to like America very much — and American audiences have been more than willing to return the favor. Three years after taking over for Larry King, Mr. Morgan has seen the ratings for “Piers Morgan Live” hit some new lows, drawing a fraction of viewers compared with competitors at Fox News and MSNBC.
It’s been an unhappy collision between a British television personality who refuses to assimilate — the only football he cares about is round and his lectures on guns were rife with contempt — and a CNN audience that is intrinsically provincial.* After all, the people who tune into a cable news network are, by their nature, deeply interested in America.
Pro tip: When Timesman David Carr**, who sneers at midwesterners as “the dance of the low-sloping foreheads” calls you “rife with contempt,” you know you’ve overdone it. And now, fortunately, Morgan is done, at least as a regular CNN host:
CNN’s president, Jeffrey Zucker, has other problems, but none bigger than Mr. Morgan and his plum 9 p.m. time slot. Mr. Morgan said last week that he and Mr. Zucker had been talking about the show’s failure to connect and had decided to pull the plug, probably in March.
Crossing an ocean for a replacement for Larry King, who had ratings problems of his own near the end, was probably not a great idea to begin with. For a cable news station like CNN, major stories are like oxygen. When something important or scary happens in America, many of us have an immediate reflex to turn on CNN. When I find Mr. Morgan telling me what it all means, I have a similar reflex to dismiss what he is saying. It is difficult for him to speak credibly on significant American events because, after all, he just got here.
Americans will accept a talk show host who’s a blowhard (there’s a seven-letter word I’d rather use to describe Morgan, but I’d prefer to keep the language here family-friendly) if they think he’s one of them, or he’s looking out for them. Bill O’Reilly is a blowhard, but when his show debuted in the mid-to-late-1990s, there was nobody else on TV each night pushing back against leftwing sacred cows such as Charlie Rangel. Rush is a blowhard, but it’s done with a wink and a smile and a lot of humor, and he was the first national conservative radio host, who single-handedly revolutionized the industry. Olbermann and Colbert are blowhards, but their leftwing audiences knowingly accept them as satiric parodies of Rush and O’Reilly. Howard Stern is a blowhard, but his audience consists of horny 17 year old males, and men of all ages who wish to reconnect with that adolescent period of their lives. In all cases, the audience identifies on some level with these hosts as one of them.
But Morgan overtly went to war on a seemingly nightly basis with his potential audience (not to mention the American Constitution), and that’s a formula that’s doomed to fail. Particularly since Morgan was sold as the successor to a Larry King, a classic all-American regular guy everyman.
So where does Morgan go next? Hey, Martin Bashir is out of a job, too. Tag-team Brits sneering at middle-America? Some leftwing cable network has to give it a shot. What say you, Al Jazeera?
Update: Harry Shearer tweets, “Piers Morgan ‘said his show, along with much of the rest of CNN, had been imprisoned by the news cycle’ Like ESPN is imprisoned by sports.” I remember the old days when CNN shaped and controlled the news cycle, they didn’t whine about being imprisoned by it. Now, that’s real progress, which I’ll happily accept.
* As Moe Lane notes, “The @nytimes has a somewhat provincial audience itself, methinks.” Which brings us to the worldview of the author of that particular phrase:
** As Christopher Caldwell wrote in the Weekly Standard in 2002, “At some point, Democrats became the party of small-town people who think they’re too big for their small towns.” Carr, who grew up in Minnetonka, Minnesota, could be the poster child for his thesis.
For a look at Morgan’s rather unsavory Fleet Street backstory, and how his decisions there could potentially impact his future endeavors, check out this post at a blog with a name that Morgan must truly loathe, WeaponsMan.com.