Tonight's the night for Larry King as 25-year reign comes to an end

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

US TV's most revered talk show goes out for the last time this evening, making way for Piers Morgan

He is from another era of current affairs television and tonight that era will end. When the lights dim on his desk this evening, Larry King, the primetime interview host for CNN for the last 25 years, will hang up his trademark braces and cede his throne to the British talent show judge and former editor Piers Morgan.

With Mr King, 76, will vanish an interviewing style that to some had become outdated long before now. You don't need a Jeremy Paxman when your guest is Jon Bon Jovi but arguably you do if it's Vladimir Putin, the Prime Minister of Russia, or Tony Blair. (All three have been on in recent weeks.) Laconic, if not sleep-inducing, King has always put the ease of his guests above investigative questioning.

That Mr Morgan plans to do things differently with his programme, Piers Morgan Tonight, when it debuts in January, is hardly a point of speculation. Being a prince to the departed King apparently doesn't interest him. The programme will be "exciting and slightly dangerous", he said recently.

"The format, everything, will change. I'm not just going to be another man sitting in the CNN studio wearing red braces. What I would say is that there will be significant format changes, and the show will look and feel different and distinctive to Larry's. I don't want to copy him because he's a legend. You don't follow Sinatra at the Sands and try and warble My Way."

The handover is a gamble for CNN and Morgan. Hardcore King fans will even mourn the map-of-the-world in tiny lights that has been King's backdrop. While final details of the new format are still to be unveiled, off-the-cuff remarks from Morgan at a London party have already ruffled feathers. He served notice that Madonna will not be invited on to his set. She "is so boring," he reportedly declared. "She's too vegan for TV. We have Lady Gaga now so Madonna is banned from my show." Not Larry's style at all. King estimates he has conducted 50,000 interviews over the span of a career in radio and TV. CNN had barely got off the ground when 'Larry King Live' debuted in 1985, providing the network with some gravitas - until 1996 it was produced in Washington - as well as ratings. Every American president made the pilgrimage to King from Nixon to Obama. But what distinguished King also was his ability to switch between a world leader one moment to a soap opera starlet the next without grinding a single gear.

His vintage period was perhaps in 1992 when a certain Texas businessman called Ross Perot announced his run for US president on his set and returned repeatedly during that year including one night for a face-to-face debate with Al Gore, the running mate for Bill Clinton, about the merits or evils of North American free trade. That one show drew 20 million viewers, breaking a record for CNN.

But the ratings began slipping steeply for King several years ago as he faced competition in his 9pm timeslot from other cable news anchors who took precisely the approach he avoided, wearing their political opinions loudly on their sleeves and probing and prodding where King would just smile.

"I ask short questions, I have no pretence at intellectuality, I don't pretend to know it all," King once said of 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".

Talking this week to the New York Times he lamented how things on primetime have changed. "If you look at media now all the hosts of these other shows are interviewing themselves," he said. "The guests are a prop for the hosts on these cable networks. The guest to me was always paramount."

He assuredly has his admirers, among them Mr Perot. "I consider Larry one of a kind, absolutely one of a kind," Mr Perot said this week. While other television interviewers "will interrupt you if you're not saying what they want you to say," Mr. King will "let you finish what you're saying", he said.

CNN is giving the veteran a strong send off with special guests all this week ranging from Barbra Streisand (whom he first interviewed in Florida when she was a struggling bar singer in Miami) to Susan Boyle and Conan O'Brien. Who will be on hand for the last show tonight is a closely guarded secret.

Chatshow gold

Ross Perot and Al Gore, 1993

A record high in viewer numbers for CNN – even though the debate was about a North American free trade agreement. "We make the best tyres in the world," claimed Al Gore, "but we have a hard time selling them in Mexico." King responded: "So he'll make more tyres?" Such exchanges enticed 20 million people to switch on. King later claimed that President Clinton had told him that the free trade agreement would not have passed without the show.

Howard Stern, 1988

Larry King held his own as the right-wing shock jock came on the show, tried to make him smoke a cigarette and poked fun at his abilities as a broadcaster and networker. "You're just a radio guy with a cable television show," Stern told a chuckling King. "We're not friends... you say you're friends with everyone."

Jerry Seinfeld, 2007

Seinfeld was exasperated when King asked whether his top-rated show had been dumped. "You think I got cancelled? I was the number one show in television Larry... Do you know who I am?"

Suggested Topics
people And here is why...
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
voicesBy the man who has
Arsene Wenger tried to sign Eden Hazard
footballAfter 18 years with Arsenal, here are 18 things he has still never done as the Gunners' manager
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
The new Windows 10 Start Menu
newsFloyd 'Creeky' Creekmore still performed regularly to raise money for local hospitals
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson star in The Twilight Saga but will not be starring in the new Facebook mini-movies
tvKristen Stewart and Stephenie Meyer will choose female directrs
William Hague
people... when he called Hague the county's greatest
More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete today
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
Arts and Entertainment
Twerking girls: Miley Cyrus's video for 'Wrecking Ball'
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Ed Sheeran performs at his Amazon Front Row event on Tuesday 30 September
musicHe spotted PM at private gig
indybestKeep extra warm this year with our 10 best bedspreads
people'I’d rather have Fred and Rose West quote my characters on childcare'
Arts and Entertainment
There has been a boom in ticket sales for female comics, according to an industry survey
comedyFirst national survey reveals Britain’s comedic tastes
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

SEO Executive

£24 - 28k: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Technical SEO Executive to join one ...

Research Analyst / Insight Analyst

£25k: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Research Analyst / Insight Analyst to joi...

RTB/ Programmatic Campaign Manager

35,000 - 50,000: Sphere Digital Recruitment: Our client is the world's largest...

Head of Marketing - Acquisition & Direct Reponse Marketing

£90000 - £135000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Marketing (B2C, Acquisition...

Day In a Page

Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Why do we like making lists?

Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

Paris Fashion Week

Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
10 best children's nightwear

10 best children's nightwear

Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

Manchester City vs Roma

Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

Trouble on the Tyne

Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?