Pugnacious Piers Morgan chats up Oprah for his CNN debut
Piers Morgan, the pugnacious British tabloid editor turned talent show judge who's been charged with saving CNN came to Winter TV Press Tour 2011 to mouth off, bat TV critics around a bit, and announce that his very first "get" as Larry King's replacement is - Oprah Winfrey.
Two years ago that news would really have wowed the critics, reporters, and bloggers who attend the press tour. These days, in which you have to fend off Oprah with a club as she manically plugs her new cable network -- not so much.
"So, it's Oprah!" Morgan raved after The Big Reveal was made in a video clip, which clearly did not go over quite as hoped.
"She's not only the biggest celebrity in the world...it was an incredible interview!" marveled Piers, who is his biggest fan.
Oprah's so overexposed these days she's "even meeting with us this afternoon," one unimpressed blogger told Piers. Yes, there's a lot of self -loathing about The Reporters Who Cover Television. It comes from years of being asked condescendingly, by people who cover the film industry, how they can sleep at night knowing they cover TV for a living.
"I didn't know she'd set the bar that low," Piers conceded.
"The idea that you say Oprah's not a Great Get - that's ridiculous," Piers scoffed.
"I defy you not to enjoy it," Piers said of his interview though, already reading their reviews in his head, he added, "You may not admit it in public."
One brave critic noted America has already been subjected, recently, to a one-hour primetime sit-down with Oprah, conducted by Barbara Walters. (Heck, even CBS's daytime show "The Talk" is getting an interview with Oprah)
Piers's is better - just ask him. His executive producer, Jonathan Wild, sensing skepticism, promised that what Oprah tells Piers about her recent interview with Walters is "quite fascinating"... Yes, the TV news business is incest.
So just how does Piers intend to save CNN from ratings oblivion here in the United States? "CNN has to make more noise," Piers said. "It's up against new beasts in the jungle. To perform in that jungle you've got to be more aggressive, louder - make more noise.
"I love being polarizing. It's more fun," he boasted. "The idea of being some saintly figure in modern television must be unbearable. I think television should be provocative."
Based on Tweets, about half the room fell in love with him - the other half loathe him and think he's the beginning of the end for CNN.
One TV critic suggested the whole "polarizing" gag could make it difficult to book guests who'd prefer to play it safe as they plug their new movie, book, political campaign, TV show, whatevs.
"Guests have a choice of a safe, easy five-minute ride (on another interview show) to plug their movie, or they can come on for an hour and joust with an annoying Brit and if they succeed be the toast of America," Piers answered smugly, noting his British interview show has, on more than one occasion, attracted 8 million viewers.
"You just have to make them fabulous, fascinating and fun," he smirked.
Meanwhile, he challenged the press to ask him anything they wanted, adding, "I don't give a damn."
"How's your sex life" one critic asked -- unimaginatively, we think.
"Pretty bloody good --- hahahaha!" Piers shot back.
"Well, that just about did it," his producer Wald said melancholically.
"A lot of people are saying 'Wish mine was!'," Morgan speculated, in re the room..
"Have you had this self assurance all your life," wondered someone in the crowd.
I know, cocky little devil, aren't I?" Piers simpered.
Lisa de Moraes
| January 6, 2011; 5:25 PM ET
Categories: Winter TV Press Tour 2011
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