Sitting at a long table at the Landmarc restaurant in New York’s Time Warner Center, CNN host Piers Morgan looks quite relaxed. He says he feels it, too, having survived one year of his 9 PM program, a year that included earthquakes, tsunamis and revolutions.
Having to toggle between covering breaking news on CNN and judging dancing Christmas trees on “America’s Got Talent” began to take its toll however, and late last year Morgan was released from his NBC obligations, and focused his attention on his CNN program.
That program, “Piers Morgan Tonight,” will be undergoing a transformation this year.
“I think we will be evolving the show into a more structured format, bringing more of my personality into it,” Morgan said over a lunch with a small group of media reporters. “If you ask me what my favorite shows are on cable, it would be Bill O’Reilly and Jon Stewart, on network it would be [David] Letterman. The shows where they have a basic structure you get familiar with, stuff to look forward to.”
The goal is to make the program “a bit more mischievous, certainly more humor, more opinionated,” Morgan says.
“PMT” will be adding signature segments, and injecting more of Morgan’s personality into it.
“We will still have long-format interviews where appropriate, but less,” he says. “It will have a much newsier, and I hope humorous tone to it as well.”
While Morgan admires talent like Stewart and O’Reilly, he also says he has no intention of copying them. He wants to put his own stamp on it.
“I am never going to be a Jon Stewart, I am not a comedian, and I am never going to be a partisan as Bill O’Reilly is, but I can be provocative and opinionated and I think I can be a good interviewer. I like being provocative in interviews,” he says. “I love ‘Pinheads or Patriots,’ I love Anderson [Cooper’s] ‘Ridiculist.’ We don’t have stuff like that, and we need to develop things that are unique to me and my show, that are just going to be an additional thing to the interviews.”
Morgan was joined at the lunch by his executive producer, Jonathan Wald, as well as CNN/U.S. executive VP Ken Jautz, who noted the obvious challenge facing Morgan when he began his program.
“Viewers don’t like to see change when they get accustomed to something,” Jautz said. “For Piers here, he only went into the slot where the previous occupant had been there for 25 years, and in a format that never changed and a set that never changed.”
Next week, Morgan will be celebrating his one-year anniversary with a slate of special programs, including his first interview with a former President (Jimmy Carter), an interview he booked over Twitter with Alec Baldwin, and Chelsea Handler, who will interview Morgan about his first year.
While CNN and Morgan clearly have some significant changes in the works at the program, some barriers may just be too big to overcome. When TVNewser asked whether we could expect a weekly cricket roundup, Morgan didn’t miss a beat:
“Would you rather watch an hour of cricket, or Rachel Maddow? That is the question for America,” Morgan quipped.