1. Headline
  1. Headline
Image: Larry King
Rose M. Prouser  /  AP file
Once the leader in cable TV news, Larry King now ranks third in his time slot behind Fox News Channel's Sean Hannity and MSNBC's Rachel Maddow.
updated 12/15/2010 1:37:21 PM ET 2010-12-15T18:37:21

Early last June, CNN celebrated 25 years of "Larry King Live" with a week of shows whose A-list guests included President Barack Obama, LeBron James, Bill Gates and Lady Gaga.

It was hyped to the hilt and suitably eventful, even as King and Lady Gaga regarded each other with the bemusement of a human encountering an alien life form.

Then, at the end of June, King suddenly announced he was retiring from his show — a weeknight fixture at 9 p.m. Eastern since June 1, 1985. He told viewers, "It's time to hang up my nightly suspenders."

After Thursday's edition, King will indeed hang it up, suspenders and all.

  1. More Entertainment stories
    1. Autistic ballerina dances her way into hearts

      In a popular YouTube video, the beaming little ballerina dances an entire four-minute routine seemingly perfectly, matchin...

    2. Every on-screen drink in 'Mad Men' in 5 minutes
    3. See the 'Dancing' stars' most memorable moves
    4. Emmy's biggest snubs? Cranston, Hamm, more
    5. 'Toy Story' toys burn up in prank on mom

The lineup for this farewell hour should be stellar, though no names have been announced. The mood should be spirited and flowing with emotion.

But until now, it's been an oddly subdued leave-taking. The promotion machine at a network can make noise over most anything. Or try. CNN isn't bothering. Having paid King his tribute last June, before he even said he would be stepping down, CNN now is treating him as a lame-duck star, a chapter the network is rushing to move past.

Story: Morgan won't let Britain down as Larry King replacement

The focus is on Piers Morgan, whom CNN named as the new guy in September. It is busily promoting his January debut. Morgan, a 45-year-old British journalist and TV personality known mainly in the U.S. as a judge on NBC's "America's Got Talent," promises that "Piers Morgan Tonight" will be "exciting and slightly dangerous." He is the future — or so CNN hopes.

King, who has never been exciting or dangerous (nor tried to be), is clearly seen by CNN as yesterday's news.

Sure, it would be easy to argue that the 77-year-old King waited too long to hang up those suspenders.

Once the leader in cable TV news, he now ranks third in his time slot behind Fox News Channel's Sean Hannity and MSNBC's Rachel Maddow. His show was seen by 700,000 viewers this year, less than half the nightly audience his peak year, 1998, when "Larry King Live" drew 1.64 million viewers. As recently as 2003, he was averaging 1.54 million.

Wide-eyed and nonconfrontational, King's regular-guy approach to interviewing feels dated in an era of edgy, pushy or loaded questioning by other hosts.

  1. More Entertainment stories
    1. Autistic ballerina dances her way into hearts

      In a popular YouTube video, the beaming little ballerina dances an entire four-minute routine seemingly perfectly, matchin...

    2. Every on-screen drink in 'Mad Men' in 5 minutes
    3. See the 'Dancing' stars' most memorable moves
    4. Emmy's biggest snubs? Cranston, Hamm, more
    5. 'Toy Story' toys burn up in prank on mom

"I ask short questions, I have no pretense at intellectuality, I don't pretend to know it all," King said years ago in explaining his style. "Not, 'What about Geneva or Cuba?' I ask, 'Mr. President, what don't you like about this job?' Or 'What's the biggest mistake you made?' That's fascinating."

Fascinating, until it seems sluggish or toothless or like automatic pilot.

It has become easy for the viewer to lose patience with King's accommodating, hunched-at-his-desk Q-and-A's with his guests.

As recently as last week, he landed Wesley Snipes for an interview just days before the actor began serving a three-year prison sentence for failure to file income tax returns. But the ponderous interlude served mostly as a platform for Snipes to complain about his mistreatment at the hands of the media and the judicial system. King was ill-equipped to cut to the heart of the matter: How Snipes could have gotten himself into such a jam.

King's famous avoidance of over-preparation — he has always opted to approach each interviewee fresh, unburdened by too many facts — has begun to catch up with him in recent years. His occasional flubs have made him seem out of touch. Or worse. (A prime example from three years ago found King asking Jerry Seinfeld if he had voluntarily left his sitcom or been canceled by his network, which, as everybody else knows, had been ready to hand him the keys to the treasury to stay. "I was the No. 1 show in television, Larry," replied Seinfeld with a flabbergasted look. "Do you know who I am?")

  1. Most popular

At its start, "Larry King Live" was based in Washington, which gave the show an air of gravitas. King, too. He was the plainspoken go-between through whom Beltway bigwigs could reach their public, and they did, earning the show the reputation of a place where things happened, where news was made.

Then in 1997 he moved to Los Angeles, which seemed a nod to show biz over substance — not to mention a more convenient routine for King. A man who once had hosted a nationwide radio program in the wee hours of the night, now he was done with "Larry King Live" at 7 p.m. local time.

After Thursday's show, he's flat-out calling it a day. The points of light that form his dotted world-map backdrop will be dark.

The end of "Larry King Live" is undeniably a cultural milestone, the end of a remarkable run. King, the suspenders-sporting everyman, is a pioneer in cable and a TV institution.

He has estimated that he's conducted 50,000 interviews during his half-century-long broadcasting career. Maybe so. And maybe he should have stopped a couple thousand earlier. But that doesn't mean King (and his nightly suspenders and the safe space he created for his thousands of guests) won't be missed after Thursday, when he's gone.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Photos: Celebrity Sightings

loading photos...
  1. Paul Rudd

    Actor Paul Rudd attends the world premiere of "This is the End" at the Regency Village Theater on June 3 in Los Angeles. (Dan Steinberg / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Carmen Electra

    Actress Carmen Electra attends the world premiere of "This is the End" at the Regency Village Theater on June 3 in Los Angeles. (Jason Kempin / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Seth Rogen

    Actor Seth Rogen attends the world premiere of "This is the End" at the Regency Village Theater on June 3 in Los Angeles. (Alberto E. Rodriguez / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Charisma Carpenter

    Actress Charisma Carpenter attends the world premiere of "This is the End" at the Regency Village Theater on June 3 in Los Angeles. (Jason Kempin / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Peter Facinelli

    Actor Peter Facinelli attends the world premiere of "This is the End" at the Regency Village Theater on June 3 in Los Angeles. (Alberto E. Rodriguez / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Emma Watson

    Actress Emma Watson attends the world premiere of "This is the End" at the Regency Village Theater on June 3 in Los Angeles. (Dan Steinberg / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Wilmer Valderrama

    Actor Wilmer Valderrama attends the world premiere of "This is the End" at the Regency Village Theater on June 3 in Los Angeles. (Jason Kempin / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Mindy Kaling

    Actress Mindy Kaling attends the world premiere of "This is the End" at the Regency Village Theater on June 3 in Los Angeles. (Jason Kempin / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Danny McBride, Craig Robinson

    Actors Danny McBride, left, and actor Craig Robinson attend the world premiere of "This is the End" at the Regency Village Theater on June 3 in Los Angeles. (Dan Steinberg / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Tom Petty

    Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers perform at the Fonda Theatre on June 3 in Los Angeles. (Kevin Winter / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Kerry Washington

    Actress Kerry Washington attends the 2013 CFDA Fashion Awards at Lincoln Center in New York on June 3. (Randy Brooke / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Zachary Quinto

    Actor Zachary Quinto attends the 2013 CFDA Fashion Awards at Lincoln Center in New York on June 3. (Bryan Bedder / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Jessica Chastain

    Actress Jessica Chastain attends the 2013 CFDA Fashion Awards at Lincoln Center in New York on June 3. (Jamie Mccarthy / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Rooney Mara

    Actress Rooney Mara attends the 2013 CFDA Fashion Awards at Lincoln Center in New York on June 3. (Andrew H. Walker / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Ellie Kemper

    Actress Ellie Kemper attends the 2013 CFDA Fashion Awards at Lincoln Center in New York on June 3. (Lucas Jackson / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Sofia Vergara

    Actress Sofia Vergara attends the 2013 CFDA Fashion Awards at Lincoln Center in New York on June 3. (Bryan Bedder / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Dan Stevens

    Actor Dan Stevens attends the 2013 CFDA Fashion Awards at Lincoln Center in New York on June 3. (Bryan Bedder / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Adriana Lima

    Model Adriana Lima attends the 2013 CFDA Fashion Awards at Lincoln Center in New York on June 3. (Bryan Bedder / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Nicole Richie

    Actress Nicole Richie attends the 2013 CFDA Fashion Awards at Lincoln Center in New York on June 3. (Jennifer Graylock / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Elizabeth Olsen, Mary-Kate Olsen

    Actresses Elizabeth Olsen, left, and Mary-Kate Olsen attend the 2013 CFDA Fashion Awards at Lincoln Center in New York on June 3. (Jennifer Graylock / Getty Images ) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Mick Jagger, Taylor Swift

    Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones and special guest Taylor Swift perform at the United Center on June 3 in Chicago. (Barry Brecheisen / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Kyle MacLachlan

    Actor Kyle MacLachlan arrives at SIFF Cinema Uptown to receive an award for Outstanding Achievment in Acting during the Seattle International Film Festival on June 3 in Seattle, Washington. (Mat Hayward / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt

    Actors Bruce Willis, left, and Emily Blunt attend the 7th Annual "Freeing Voices, Changing Lives" Benefit Gala at Tribeca Rooftop on June 3 in New York. (Daniel Zuchnik / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. John Krasinski

    Actor John Krasinski attends the 7th Annual "Freeing Voices, Changing Lives" Benefit Gala at Tribeca Rooftop on June 3 in New York. (Daniel Zuchnik / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. Samuel L. Jackson

    Actor Samuel L. Jackson attends the 7th Annual "Freeing Voices, Changing Lives" Benefit Gala at Tribeca Rooftop on June 3 in New York. (Daniel Zuchnik / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. Vanessa Redgrave, Kyra Sedgwick, Kevin Bacon and Trudie Styler

    From left, actors Vanessa Redgrave, Kyra Sedgwick, Kevin Bacon and Trudie Styler attend the 2013 Culture Project Gala at Stage 48 on June 3 in New York. (Cindy Ord / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. Wynonna Judd

    Wynonna Judd performs a special acoustic show at Bluebird Cafe on June 3 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Erika Goldring / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  28. Justin Bieber

    Singer Justin Bieber, center, watches players during the first half of Game 7 in their NBA basketball Eastern Conference finals playoff series between the Miami Heat and the Indiana Pacers on June 3 in Miami. (Lynne Sladky / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  29. Michael Douglas

    Actor Michael Douglas attends One Centennial Sensation at Hudson Theatre on June 3 in New York. (Ben Gabbe / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  30. George Hamilton

    Actor George Hamilton attends One Centennial Sensation at Hudson Theatre on June 3 in New York. (Ben Gabbe / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  31. Stephen King, John Mellencamp

    Actor Stephen King and singer John Mellencamp attend Meet the Creators at Apple Store Soho on June 3 in New York. (Eugene Gologursky / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  32. Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie

    Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie pose as they arrive for the Paris premiere of "World War Z" at Cinema UGC Normandie on June 3 in Paris. (Pascal Le Segretain / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  1. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  2. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  3. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  4. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

Discuss: Will you watch Larry King's final show?

How does he rank among TV interviewers?

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments

More on TODAY.com

TODAY's Takeaway
  1. TODAY

    Savannah overshares; Billy Crystal brings ‘700 Sundays’ to TV

    4/18/2014 8:29:08 PM +00:00 2014-04-18T20:29:08
  1. Doomed South Korean ferry’s captain taken into custody

    The captain of the sunken ferry in South Korea was taken into custody Friday and is facing five charges, including criminal negligence.

    4/18/2014 8:35:55 PM +00:00 2014-04-18T20:35:55
  2. Did South Korea ferry’s sharp turn cause it to sink?
  3. Teen ferry survivors comforted in devastated town
  1. Courtesy of Shawn Stock

    'You helped me': After 23 years, Desert Storm veteran thanks pen pals

    4/18/2014 8:51:52 PM +00:00 2014-04-18T20:51:52
  1. Courtesy of Kristen Hazelwood Jo

    Kids scared of the Easter Bunny? Well, look at him!

    4/18/2014 7:18:23 PM +00:00 2014-04-18T19:18:23
  1. This weekend on TODAY: Apps to keep teens from texting and driving

    Janice Lieberman takes a look at three new apps that are designed to keep your teens safe behind the wheel. Also, Ed Weeks from “The Mindy Project," the right way to cook a perfect Easter ham and more.

    4/18/2014 4:41:45 PM +00:00 2014-04-18T16:41:45