The British host, best known in the U.S. as a judge on America's Got Talent, will now be judged. Apparently, he hopes the judges will be as kind as they were with his predecessor and first guest, Oprah Winfrey, someone else with a quarter-century endurance record on television.
The host of Piers Morgan Tonight (weeknights at 9/8c) has gone on record with his disdain for an eminence grise like Madonna — clearly trying to show his outrageousness. Maybe he doesn't know America so well: These days, that'll make you more a face in the crowd than a distinctive persona.
Despite what he promised, Morgan displayed more toadying than anything else with Winfrey. And he got no newsbreaking quotes from her — unlike Barbara Walters just a few weeks ago.
Earlier Monday, Morgan, 45, appeared on The View, and genuflected to Walters' redoubtable interviewing abilities to the point of knee pain.
The closest he came to being combative with Winfrey was when he bet her "100 British pounds" that he would score Michael Vick for an interview before she did.
"Make it two," said the richest woman in show business, who just started her OWN cable network on New Year's Day.
Wagering aside, he went over plowed ground about her personal life — including her relationship with Gayle King and Steadman Graham -- and she finally talked about her aversion to marriage and, after acknowledging she's had her heart broken, told him point-blank: "You're wasting your time."
"How many times have you been properly in love?" he asked later.
"You are good," she answered, vamping, then dodging the question.
The guest list for the rest of this week will be shock jock Howard Stern, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Golden Globes host Ricky Gervais and Oscar winner George Clooney — a lineup some of our users see as hackneyed and tiresome.
His juxtaposition Monday with Walters and Winfrey made him seem more like an echo than a voice. But this could be a marathon not a sprint for Morgan.
And he has to pull out of third in a three-way race. MSNBC beat CNN for the second straight year in prime time among 25-to-54-year-olds — and for the first time in total viewers (873,000 vs. 641,000) in 2010. And Fox News Channel's ratings continue to be more than double MSNBC's and CNN's combined.
At the end, he asked Winfrey — "the world's most famous interviewer" -- how well he'd done in interviewing her.
"Surprising," she said. "And that's a good thing. Because who doesn't want to be surprised."
So, by week's end, it'll be five shows down. Will it be 25 years to go? What did you think of the first show?
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