Friday, December 17, 2010

Larry King bows out after 25 years

Larry King has presented the final edition of his long-running CNN talk show after 25 years. The veteran anchor fought back tears as he bid farewell to a world wide audience. "Thank you, and instead of Goodbye, how about So Long?"

His last show saw several high profile guests. President Barack Obama paid tribute to Larry King in a taped message, in which he said his show had "opened our eyes to the world beyond our living rooms". Former president Bill Clinton also made an appearance, his 29th on the show, via satellite from Arkansas. 

On the famous set King was joined by US television stars Ryan Seacrest and Bill Maher. "This is not Larry's funeral. He's hopefully going to be in our living rooms for a lot of years to come," said comedian Maher. "This is the end of a show, not the end of a man."

"You're not going to see me go away, but you're not going to see me on this set any more," King said. He promised to "still be a part of the CNN family", saying he planned to host special one-off programmes. His own family also joined him on the set. His seventh wife, 51 year old Shawn sat by his side along with King's two sons Chance, 11, and Cannon, 10. Chance provided some levity, impersonating his father with both mannerisms and Larry King's Brooklyn accent. 

He was not the only impersonator. Fred Armisen of "Saturday Night Live" delivered a King impersonation creating a surreal moment as Larry King found himself interviewing himself. The image was all the more striking as Armisen appeared dressed in exactly the same bright red suspenders over a black shirt topped off with a polka dot tie. Armisen's "Larry" asked what question King had asked more than any other. "The best question of all is `why?' because it can't be answered in one word and it forces people to think," King said.

King began as a local Florida journalist and radio interviewer in the 1950s and '60s. He became prominent as an all-night national radio broadcaster starting in 1978, and then, in 1985, began hosting the nightly interview TV program Larry King Live on CNN. But after 25 years, King has decided to hang up his infamous suspenders to spend more time with his family [BBC / CNN].

It brings to and end an institution in America. The show has paid host to countless world leaders, celebrities and religious icons. Some have been controversial, but King has always managed to give an insight that few others have done or been willing to do. He has sat face to face with Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as comfortably as US president George W Bush. Others have included Russian Premier Vladimir Putin, Venezuelan President Hugo Rafael Chávez and Libyan leader Muammar Abu Minyar al-Gaddafi.

His choice of interviewee has brought criticism from many quarters and in some cases CNN has been blacked out by governments unhappy at the appearing guests. When spiritual leader the Dalai Lama appeared on Larry King Live earlier this year China blacked out the broadcast and the CNN website was disrupted for several days.

But LKL has also covered the less controversial issues of the day. Celebrity guests have taken up a large proportion of airtime. From Lady Gaga to Frank Zappa, from Willie Nelson to Paul McCartney, there are few artists that have not appeared on Larry King Live.

As an institution, the show has often been used in Hollywood films, adding an air of authenticity. Only time will tell if Piers Morgan will be able to take the reigns and produce a show as iconic as Larry King Live. Although Morgan has described the chance to present CNN's flagship chat show as a "dream job", it will be a difficult role to fill after 25 years of Larry King [BBC].

tvnewswatch, London, UK

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