Bauder Asks, ‘When was the last must-see Larry King interview?’

By Chris Ariens 

The AP’s David Bauder has one of the most comprehensive stories written about CNN’s Larry King — not about the divorce, or non-divorce — but about what Larry King once meant and now means to CNN.

These are troubled times for “Larry King Live” as it approaches its 25th anniversary in June. The show’s viewership for the first three months of the year dropped 44 percent from 2009, and it usually trails Fox News Channel’s Sean Hannity and MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow in the time slot.

Once a pioneer, King now fights for relevancy.

Think about it. When was the last must-see Larry King interview?

For a network based in Atlanta and with a large New York office, King usually works out of Los Angeles. His executive producer since 1992, Wendy Walker, works from her home in San Diego, where CNN has built a control room for her. Some who know King suggested that’s a disconnected arrangement, and wonder whether he is getting the support he needs in booking and promotion. If you see an ad for CNN, it’s far more likely to feature Cooper or Blitzer.

King’s simple, conversational style often annoys people who want interviews with more rigor and preparation. His supporters believe the everyman approach has been underestimated but worry that King, at age 76, is losing a step. Mistaking Roman Polanski for Charles Manson earlier this year was cringe-worthy. Last week, King seemed unaware of “Family Guy.” And when he asked Jerry Seinfeld if his popular sitcom was canceled, it became an Internet embarrassment.

TVNewser columnist Gail Shister tells Bauder, “It’s almost as if he’s interviewing on automatic pilot and he’s picking up a ball game through his fillings.”

So, what’s CNN to do?

Bauder continues:

Circumstances could force a change. What if Katie Couric decides to leave CBS News when her contract is up next year and expresses an interest in that slot? Cooper is a CNN favorite and might work better in an earlier time slot. Joy Behar’s talk show on the affiliated HLN network has done well and her string of one-liners made her popular with the advertisers this week.

Some have suggested a slow transition with King, not unlike what ABC has done with Barbara Walters. Relieve him of daily duties, yet have him conduct special interviews several times a year.