How Piers Morgan Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Live TV

By Alex Weprin 

The Lost Remote newsletter brings you the the best in streaming news, from staffing changes to premiere dates to trailers—to the latest platform moves. Sign up today.

When CNN prepared to launch “Piers Morgan Tonight,” host Morgan and EP Jonathan Wald made a point of highlighting the fact that they would try to pre-tape as many interviews as possible, ensuring meaty interviews and plenty of opportunity to promote them with clips.

They were also completely open to doing live shows, but said they would not do “Live for live’s sake.” Now, nearly six months in, nearly two thirds of Morgan’s shows have been live, including the much-talked-about discussion with Charlie Sheen when the CBS comedy star was the talk of Hollywood for his outbursts.

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Morgan uses the Sheen interview to reflect on going live:

Morgan: For sheer live drama excitement and also because by then I’d been getting a bit fed up with the fact that he doesn’t do them all live. Two-thirds of my show so far have been live, and I love live TV. Most of Got Talent ends up being live in the summer. Having Charlie walk in and go live for an hour was electrifying.

THR: How do you make the decision between what goes live and what is taped?

Morgan: For someone like Eva Longoria, we want to sit down for a lot longer and edit it down and have a really emotional, proper in-depth interview with her. You don’t get that the same way live. So it’s very much dependent on the guests and the circumstances. Having Charlie Sheen was a big moment. I think doing Netanyahu was a big moment for the show because we got the first interview with him since all the uprising in the Middle East. I think people thought we were suitably tough on him without being unfairly tough. He’s a huge world leader in the center of this massive story and we got the exclusive. All of those in different ways have been really good for us.

Morgan also shows a keen self-awareness when it comes to scheduling, and notes that they are making an effort not to program interviews with celebrities like the Kardashian sisters up against entertainment shows that would appeal to a similar audience:

Morgan: When we had the Kardashian sisters on, I think that was misinterpreted. It got the lowest rating that we had in about six weeks. We had a funny feeling we scheduled it wrong when we put it on a Thursday night when American Idol, Jersey Shore and other shows that would normally be a Kardashian audience. We re-aired it without making a big song and dance about it three weeks later on a Saturday night and it got a 50 percent higher rating in total audience and demo than the original airing. Had we done it then, it would have been perceived as a big success.

THR: What’s the lesson in that?

Morgan: The importance of scheduling different types of shows on different nights. When Idol and Jersey Shore are on, there’s no point in doing celebrity guests that would or could be a favorite of that audience.

You can read the entire interview, here.