LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Briton Piers Morgan on Thursday vowed that his new CNN interview show would give a good “butt-kicking” to rival programs by being entertaining and provocative, starting from his first guest, Oprah Winfrey.
Morgan, a former tabloid editor best known to Americans as a judge on “America’s Got Talent”, takes over CNN’s nightly television interview slot from veteran Larry King on January 17.
“I like being polarizing. It is more fun. The idea of being some saintly figure on TV is unbearable. I think television should be provocative,” Morgan, 45, told TV writers.
“My guests have to have the three ‘Fs’ — fabulous, fun and fascinating...I genuinely think Oprah is the perfect guest for this show. She is not only the biggest celebrity in the world, but she has an extraordinary brand,” Morgan said.
Morgan, who boasts about being the man who made abrasive “American Idol” judge Simon Cowell cry on British TV, vowed to overthrow the U.S. talk show formula where celebrities appear just to promote their latest film, book or music album.
“Piers Morgan Tonight” he said, would focus on hour-long interviews with everyone ranging from politicians to movie stars willing to “joust with this rather annoying Brit for an hour”.
Morgan beat a number of U.S. personalities that had hoped to fill the shoes of King, 76, who retired from his “Larry King Live” show in December after 25 years.
King had acquired a reputation for softball questions and had consequently seen about half of his audience drop away while cable TV rivals MSNBC and Fox News added viewers by developing more partisan political news shows.
“You have got to be more aggressive. You have got to be louder. I want you guys to be writing about this show regularly, good, bad or ugly,” Morgan told a conference of TV critics.
Morgan acknowledged that CNN had taken a bashing from Fox News and MSNBC in the ratings. “But I would like to get to the position quite quickly where the butt-kicking is reversed. I am confident that will happen,” he said.
Morgan’s varied career includes stints on British and U.S. TV as a talent show judge, and in 2008 he won “The Celebrity Apprentice” TV reality show.
He also hosts an in-depth interview program on British TV and was editor for several years of the British tabloid newspaper The Daily Mirror — from which he was fired in 2004 after the paper ran photos, later revealed to be fake, of British soldiers apparently abusing an Iraqi detainee.
Morgan acknowledged he has a reputation for being both arrogant and caustic, saying “It has served me well over the years to have that British brashness and frankness.”