Reviewers Pull Out Knives For ‘Piers Morgan Tonight’

By Alex Weprin 

The first installment of “Piers Morgan Tonight” was televised on CNN yesterday, and the TV critics wasted no time in giving their thoughts on the program, which featured an interview with Oprah Winfrey.

The Good:

NY Post: I mean, seriously. Morgan’s got bigger Golden Globes than Ricky Gervais for starting out with someone who does so well what he wants to do that she practically elected an American president singlehandedly…

He did surprisingly, charmingly well — after a slow and shaky start that was full of “you’re good,” “no you’re good” flattery that was as unnecessary as Larry King’s microphone from 1955.

Entertainment Weekly: As for whether the “new boy” is a worthy replacement for Larry King… come on, you didn’t watch Larry King Live, did you? Simply by having facts about his subject at hand and speaking coherently, Morgan aced King on his opening night. I’m looking forward to seeing him interview Howard Stern tomorrow night.

Philadelphia Inquirer: Morgan won’t be able to keep up this level of guest, surely, but if he shows the judgment, skills, and news sense he showed Monday with the toughest first-night assignment a TV talk-show host ever had, he’ll make people forget Larry King even more quickly than they already have.

The Bad:

New York Magazine: He doesn’t yet know how much he’s worth in this new chair at CNN. But Oprah knows exactly how much she’s worth, and it’s definitely more than this untested — if bright and charming — British import. The gap in confidence, even muffled as it was by flowers and soft lighting, was glaring.

The New York Times: Mostly, the interview showed a more vulnerable, schoolboy side of the host. He was almost endearingly crass about his own ambitions — and insecurities. His last question for Ms. Winfrey was the one that seemed to matter the most to CNN’s new star. “How have I done?” he asked.

The Hollywood Reporter: So the end result wasn’t so much an interview as a chat, which fell flatter than people might have expected. It did, for all the world, seem like two self-important rich people talking to each other. And that made it no different than Oprah talking to her celebrity friends on her show or Barbara Walters talking to Oprah.

The Boston Globe: Piers Morgan took over CNN’s Larry King slot tonight and was by turns charming, vain, well-informed, and fawning — but mostly just fawning. During the hour with his first guest, Oprah Winfrey, Morgan heaped endless praise on her, telling “the American queen” that she’d have been a “fantastic mother” and a great therapist, all while laughing a little too eagerly at her jokes.

St Petersburg Times: Can the guy who insults mediocre performers on America’s Got Talent actually hold his own with the biggest celebrity interview CNN can muster?

The answer, judging by his sitdown with Winfrey on Monday, is a decided maybe. Because Winfrey insisted not only on controlling the interview, but making sure Morgan knew she was controlling the interview — telling him “I know where you’re going with that question” or slyly noting “You’re really good,” while refusing to answer.

The Ugly:

The Washington Post: But after all that buildup, Morgan’s first show turned out to be a fawning and completely unnecessary interview with a successful businesswoman named Oprah Winfrey. It was a droning, previously recorded hour (Morgan has said he prefers to do taped interviews) on a network in desperate need of a newsy, dynamic talk show. The goal was to replace “Larry King Live” with something better, right? That might turn out to be harder than any of us would have guessed.

What did you think of Morgan’s debut show? Let us know in the comments.