I've been writing these Please Explain pieces for awhile and it dawned on me when I was doing research for today's topic that my concept could be compared to Jumping the Shark. So let me explain what makes them different. The definition of Jump the Shark is the following.
It's a defining moment when you know that your television program has reached its peak. That instant when you know from now on, it's all downhill.
The closest I've come to merging the two concepts is Larry King. During the 1980's, King hosted a great late-night radio show syndicated by Mutual broadcasting across the country. Just like the CNN television show that followed, King interviewed the major figures in the news. From politicians to those in the entertainment world, his radio and television show were the one place where thoughtful interviews would consistently happen on a nightly basis.
The pinnacle of King's career was during the early 1990's, when a eccentric Texas billionaire named H. Ross Perot started regularly appearing on the show. Perot had the ability to seem like he he had a clear answer to solving America's problems, by using wacky comparisons that often made no sense. From these appearances on King's show, he struck a nerve with so many Americans that Perot actually had a chance to become President as a 3rd party candidate. Check your history books on what happened later, but Perot's idiosyncrancies were exposed enough that he faltered by election day.
Since CNN had no real competition at this time, The Larry King Show continued to be the place for serious talk. There was no O'Reilly, no Hannity, no Olbermann or even a Stewart or Colbert. I'm not sure when it happened, but sometime by the late 90's, King did Jump the Shark. My lazy research has me swiping a quote from Wikipedia that originated in a 1996 interview in the Washington Post. King noted that he sometimes slips hard questions in between softballs. King prefers one sentence questions. In the Post interview, King also proclaimed that he prepares as little as possible for each program, does not read the books of the authors he interviews, and admitted that the show was not journalism but infotainment.
King was always a weird guy. He has worn more suspenders than Mork from Ork. He has treated people calling into his show like they were telemarketers and he was on a don't call list. At some point, KIng decided that he needed to offer up his inane movie reviews for public consumption, which outside of PR people form film companies, serves no useful purpose for the planet.. His previously mentioned interview style is one where soft-ball questions are followed up by non-sequitors, which generally leave you scratching your head. Truthfully, his show is such a trainwreck anymore that the only thing that is compelling about watching is to see what crazy-ass comment/question he is going to throw out next.
I'm guessing that King has continued to do the gig because he needs to take care of his numerous alimony checks. (He has been married 7 times.) On the subject of wives, my opinion of when King slipped on the leather jacket and the water skis began when he married his most recent wife, Shawn Southwick. If you haven't seen this Mormon firecracker before, let's just say that the juxtaposition of her and King together is quite striking. Kind of like a coupling that Bob Newhart would dream up for a sitcom. Southwick is so out of King's league that even Lyle Lovett was overheard saying "Damn, how did he pull that off?"
While Larry King Live doesn't get anywhere close to the same ratings he used to, he still does well enough for CNN to keep him on during Prime Time. Some of his rating success lies in that he still gets a lot of top-notch guests because he rarely asks a difficult question. The only type of show that he still does well is when he struts out c-list celebrities from the 60's like Connie Stevens or Robert Goulet. What really baffles me is why he even wants to do the job anymore, since half of his time is spent conducting interviews with the Freak of the Week. Since O.J. killed Nicole, cable news has created a new blueprint where sensational stories drive their ratings upward. Why 2 people in their mid-70's like King and Barbara Walters would try so hard to get an exclusive interview with some trollop like Paris Hilton is really sad. Don't you have anything better to do with your limited time on earth than striving to interview simpletons?
Please Explain why anyone under the age of 50 watches Larry King?