Tuesday, December 6, 2022


January 18, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

At the end of his interview with Oprah Winfrey on the premiere of CNN’s Piers Morgan Tonight, the host asked Winfrey, “How have I done?” Her reply: “You have been surprising.” “Surprisingly bad?” asked Morgan, laughing nervously. “No, just surprising,” Winfrey insisted. TV critics, some of them referring to that exchange, indicated that they, too were surprised — by Morgan’s approach to the interview. Far from being the anti-Larry King as he and CNN had made him out to be prior to the show’s launch, several critics noted that he handled the interview as King might have done, lobbing soft questions at Winfrey and allowing her to use the program as a veritable commercial for her OWN cable network. When he asked her why she had become teary-eyed when Barbara Walters asked her in an earlier interview about her relationship with Gayle King, she shot back that she was not about to discuss the matter any further. “That was it for me, so don’t even try to go there,” she said, “because that’s it. I’ve addressed it and I’m never going to discuss it again.” At other times, Winfrey appeared to be reciting verbatim “talking points” that she had been voicing during interviews with other talk show hosts and newspaper interviewers over the past month. (The interview with Morgan had been taped earlier in the month.) Baltimore Sun TV critic David Zurawik called it “one of the most unctuous, show-biz gooey interviews this side of Ryan Seacrest” and crowned Morgan “cable TV’s new king of Hollywood Phony.” Matthew Gilbert in the Boston Herald described it as just another “blah-blah-blah talkshow.” On the other hand, New York Daily News TV critic David Hinkley suggested that Morgan was up against an insurmountable problem with his first guest: Winfrey, he noted, “doesn’t have a lot of ‘I didn’t know that’ moments left. You don’t spend 24 and a half years doing a daily TV [show] that’s built in some measure on ‘sharing’ and hold back a chunk of good stuff on the chance you’ll be interviewed by someone whose opening night can use a tremor.” Yet her interview with Walters had made news, while this one had not, revealing, according to the New York Times‘s Alessandra Stanley, “the hard currency of celebrity interviews — stars hoard their most sensitive persona material for the highest-rated shows, and a Barbara Walters special on ABC easily trumps a CNN cable show.”

UPDATE: Piers Morgan Tonight attracted 2 million viewers on its first night, an increase of 200 percent over what Larry King had been averaging in recent months. But Fox News’s Hannity, with Sarah Palin as guest, drew 2.4 million viewers. MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow fell from second place to third with 1.1 million viewers.