At long last the whispers and the wishes have given way to terse confirmation, and the poor man will be put out of his misery. Piers Morgan’s disastrous evening show is being axed.
“It’s been a painful period and lately we have taken a bath in the ratings,” Morgan conceded yesterday. “That’s run its course.” And how. Whatever problems CNN was experiencing when Larry King took his final curtain call, his successor’s run served only to exacerbate them. The first show was watched by 2 million people; the most recent by just 270,000 — only 50,000 of them in the 25- to 54-year-old demographic. Perhaps the news is changing. Perhaps the public is telling the network something. Perhaps Morgan is just staying true to form . . .
Nowhere was this more pronounced than on the question of gun control, which he allowed to become first an eccentric obsession, then a fetish, and, finally, a veritable mania that threatened to destroy his focus. Certainly, one does not expect newcomers to any land to mask their political opinions. But it is generally preferable for the recently arrived to at least like the people that they have joined, and, too, for them to attempt to comprehend where their opponents are coming from. Morgan engaged regularly with supporters of the Second Amendment, but he somehow managed to avoid learning a single thing about them and their beliefs. Here, perhaps, the British accent did not help. Tying one’s specific political complaints to a look-at-all-these-rubes shtick is one thing coming from the likes of a Bill Maher or a John Fugelsang, but quite another coming from an immigrant who replaced Larry King on a network that has been traditionally known for down-the-middle news. Who is honestly surprised that the play failed?
Indeed, insofar as Morgan has made an impression on the country at all, his brief foray into American television appears to have served primarily to extend the territory in which he has thus far rendered himself unpopular. Back in the old country, Morgan’s name is synonymous with arrogance and with overreach, and he is known less for his interviewing skills and show-business acumen than for allegedly hacking the telephones of celebrities; for retaliating against even minor criticism by siccing paparazzi on the speaker; for having published “calculated and malicious” fake photographs of British soldiers abusing prisoners; and for considering nothing whatsoever to be more sacred than his insatiable ambition. The definition of “countryside,” Stephen Fry once quipped on the BBC, is “to kill Piers Morgan.” The audience roared. Americans are merely coming late to a story at which the Brits have been rolling their eyes for years.
In some sense, he always did. Confused as to why people weren’t laughing at his ill-timed joke on the television series, Have I Got News for You, Morgan complained in 1996 that “last week Eddie Izzard said it and everyone roared with laughter as if it was hilarious.” “Yes,” the satirist Ian Hislop retorted, but “people like him.”
— Charles C. W. Cooke is a staff writer at National Review.