Jun 27, 2014
Literally Everyone Is A Better Choice Than Piers Morgan For A CNN Nightly News Show
Piers Morgan should not be making headlines. It simply isn’t news to discover that his catastrophically low-rated show is being canceled. But that’s not to say the story shouldn’t have been covered. It should have been covered every day. Every day Piers Morgan was allowed to have a one-hour show on CNN was a miracle, a reminder that justice is a philosophical construct, that we do not live in a moral universe. The Associated Press should have issued a story every single day since January 17th, 2011: Piers Morgan Is Still On Television.
His Wikipedia entry isn’t even a biography. It’s a rap sheet: the criminal history of a belligerent, narcissistic tabloid huckster who spied on celebrities and made women cry and picked fights everywhere he went. Then, satisfied he burned every bridge there is to burn in Merry Olde England, he failed all the way upward to a one hour slot in prime-time American television. And somewhere in between, he stoked the fires of the class war by crashing a Segway. He broke three ribs attempting to demonstrate that rich people can afford better toys and better leisure pursuits than the underclass. But not even criminal spying and levels of incompetence typically reserved for cartoon characters could keep him off television.
Here is a 48 year old man who has managed to write four volumes of memoirs. That is deranged. His entire life is that of a villain from an Adam Sandler or a Rodney Dangerfield movie. Criminal spying, crashing Segways, writing memoir after memoir – that’s what the antagonist does in the background of the first act before he gets the small town orphanage condemned so he can drill for oil.
Yet none of that was enough to stop CNN from hiring him. Red flag after red flag and he still got hired. Then, for three whole years, nobody watched him. FOX could have run clips of Lee Atwater’s band against Piers Morgan and received better ratings.
But that leaves CNN in a historically unique position: since they were willing to throw away the 9 p.m. slot for a show that never aspired to be proper journalism, a show no one saw, they can literally replace Piers Morgan with whatever the hell they want. Test patterns would outperform him with sufficiently competitive advertising.
So everything is permissible. No suggestion is too off-the-wall for what should fill Morgan’s timeslot. He never aspired to be a journalist, neither did he once aspire to be watchable, so why should his replacement be held to higher standards? Here’s a few replacement hosts who would easily pull Morgan’s numbers, and for much more acceptable salaries.
Joe Rogan and Lydia Lunch
A nightly hour of comedian Joe Rogan and no-wave pioneer Lydia Lunch seems like the obvious replacement for Piers Morgan. The chemistry is immediate and unmistakable: they hate each other, and that’s all you can ask for in the cable news business. The ads write themselves: it’s the post-punk version of “Crossfire.” All you need for the ads is a couple headshots and a bit of a Teenage Jesus & The Jerks song. People will be too viscerally terrified and upset not to watch.
And the beauty of the show itself is how simple it would be. You wouldn’t even need researchers for a Joe Rogan and Lydia Lunch debate show. You could run it on a skeleton staff. Three cameras, two chairs, a couple of bodyguards, and maybe a house band. All they have to do is sit down and try to get through whatever’s on the front page of Drudge that day. Maybe throw in a segment about conspiracy theories and signs of the Biblical apocalypse and the show can run forever. You wouldn’t even need guests. It would change the cable news landscape forever.
There are many parallels between Piers Morgan and Chevy Chase. They are both diametrically opposed to the idea of being charismatic television personalities. Their talk shows were both profound failures. One key difference: Chevy Chase’s failure happened while monoculture still existed. The failure of his talk show is still being talked about decades after the fact. If Piers Morgan’s next book gets rejected by the publisher, his Wikipedia entry will probably be up for deletion.
Chevy Chase has a happier problem: he’s famous for failing. so he’s a sympathetic underdog. He’s got a hook built right in. You give Chevy Chase a talk show again, and you can sell it as a comeback. Even if it’s a train wreck, which it would be, it’s a train wreck with narrative. More people have seen that clip of him spilling that cake than have ever even heard of Piers Morgan. In all likelihood, Chevy Chase bombing would pull triple the numbers of Piers Morgan interviewing a sitting president.
Let’s promote somebody out of public access! How about John Kilduff? For years and years he’s been operating “Let’s Paint TV” on a shoestring budget, only sporadically getting viral attention when his show is sabotaged by prank callers. Ever since Los Angeles shut down its public access studio, he’s been stuck doing this show online. It deserves better. John Kilduff deserves better. Primetime cable news needs creativity like this. Primetime cable news needs somebody with a can-do attitude who’s willing to be dangerous and take chances on a new format, like painting while running on a treadmill. He’s been doing this for over a decade.
It’s high time for CNN to use low expectations to its advantage and make news exciting again. We, the American people, deserve it.