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Piers Morgan in the Crossfire --and not in a good way. Is CNN "The Little Something for Everyone Network"?

Written By mista sense on Thursday, July 15, 2010 | 11:09 AM

First, Dominic Patten, writing for The Wrap, asks, "Does CNN Know What It's Getting With Piers Morgan?"  And then, James Poniewozik, writing for Time, wonders, "Piers Morgan May Have Talent, But Is He Right for CNN?" 

First, Patten:

Not that Morgan’s antics and attitudes should be any secret. The notoriously indiscrete host wrote in his 2009 book “God Bless America” of many a drunken lunch, lustful thoughts, celeb feuds with Elton John and Sharon Osbourne and that he thought “every Russian woman in London right now is basically a hooker.” Morgan also called former British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s wife Cherie a “rude, grasping, self-deluded Scouse banshee.”

And Morgan’s lack of tact seems to have also been much more self-serving on one occasion.

Though the U.K. Department of Trade cleared him in 2004, it was revealed in court that Morgan played fast and loose with insider information in 2000, purchasing more than $100,000 in shares of a computer company that the Daily Mirror was about to promote the next day in a business column. Shares of Viglen more than doubled that day, according to the Guardian newspaper, netting the editor a profit of over $120,000. No charges were ever leveled.

But if judgment isn’t such a big issue for CNN, perhaps the network should look at his ratings track record. Though a part of the winning team on both “Talent” shows, Morgan has lagged as a serious newsman.

His British show “Morgan & Platell,” with Morgan on the political left and Conservative Party operative Amanda Platell on the right, was cancelled in 2005 after a short run due to low ratings.

And he continues:

Still, if CNN is seeking to stake out solid journalistic ground while gaining some prestige, is Piers really the best it can find?

“The only reason Piers has a career in America,” a U.K. media peer of Morgan’s told me, “is thanks to Simon Cowell.”

There is no denying the former “American Idol” judge was the one who put his friend on “Britain’s Got Talent.” It was also Cowell, who had to leave his own show in 2006 due to conflicts with “Idol,” who made Morgan a judge on “America’s Got Talent.”

It was that platform, solidified by his roguish behavior on Donald Trump’s “Celebrity Apprentice” in 2008 that gave Morgan a stateside profile.

The Cable Gamer might add: There's all the difference in the world between a guest on a show, and the host of the show.   The guest can be oboxious, so long as he or she is other entertaining.  But the host must always be likeable.    And Morgan will flunk that test, TCG predicts.

Now Time's Poniewozik.  He asks: 

Which raises the question: assuming CNN has a problem at 9 p.m. (and at least ratings-wise it does), is the problem King, or his show's format?

It think it's at least partly the latter. The notion of a nightly interview show, shifting from hard news to celeb sagas, seems like something of a cable-news throwback, and not just because of King's age. It seems dissonant, both in the larger world of cable news and with CNN's brand (to the extent that it still has one). Fox and MSNBC—and CNN on an on-again-off-again basis—have powered their schedules with hosts projecting strong points of view. And to the extent that CNN is branding itself as the just-the-facts alternative to those other two, I wonder if a Piers Morgan show, just as LKL did, will seem like a jarring break from its harder news coverage, especially if Morgan continues King's pattern of celebrity news- and funeral-chasing.

But is CNN branding itself as the just-the-facts alternative now? What is it aiming at? I can't entirely figure it out. We're now looking at a primetime lineup of a Crossfire-style show with Eliot Spitzer and Kathleen Parker, switching to (I'm guessing) and long-format sitdown potpourri with Morgan, switching thence to Anderson Cooper's globetrotting journalism at 10. Is there a brand there? I have a hard time seeing it, unless it's: The Little Something for Everyone Network. And I'm not sure who wants that, exactly.

That's a good question there, at the end--what's going to happen to CNN's brand, as it lurches from different show to different show to much different show during prime time?

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