Certain names have popped up as frontrunners, but none of them seem worthy to carry the suspenders of the legendary host who has been interviewing politicians, sports stars, bestselling authors, Hollywood celebrities, and just about anyone who has earned fifteen minutes of fame since his show first aired in 1985. Those frontrunners include Joy Behar of The View, Ryan Seacrest of American Idol, Katie Couric of CBS Evening News, Piers Morgan of America's Got Talent, and the only one out of the bunch that I think might be able to carry on Larry King's legacy, Anderson Cooper. I think Cooper should probably be the heir apparent because of his already established relationship with CNN and because his interview style I think would fit well in a show based on the King formula.
Aside from those names that have become the favorites of the odds-makers, I started thinking about who else might be a contender. I eliminated older candidates, since the replacement should be someone who can carry the new show for another two decades or more, so classic interviewers like Barbara Walters and Ted Koppel were out.
Who out there has the chops to replace Larry King's hunched shoulders and memorable one-on-ones with people in the news? Too bad such iconic talkers as Johnny Carson, Tom Snyder, Mike Douglas, and Merv Griffin are no longer with us, because any of them would have been perfect. But we are stuck with the living, so who do we have left?
Oprah Winfrey is an obvious choice. I still remember her great, no-holds-barred interview with Michael Jackson in 1993. It was a good blend of asking the questions that the public wanted asked and making the celebrity interviewee feel comfortable enough to chat. Compare it to the sycophantic interview with Jackson that Diane Sawyer did in 1995 or the awkward and belligerent interview with him that Martin Bashir did in 2003. Unfortunately, Oprah will have her hands full with her own network, (ironically called OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network), coming soon to a cable/satellite provider near you.
Other established talk show hosts might fit the bill. Arsenio Hall did a great job for a while in the 1990s with his own show, but he has since disappeared off the face of the earth. Jon Stewart would be another great fit if he decides to leave The Daily Show. Bob Costas has always been one of my favorites. Are any of them possibilities? Who knows?
Finally, if we want to think outside the box and go with someone daring, might I suggest Sacha Baron Cohen? The actor who made the character of Borat famous also proved what a brilliant interviewer he could be in his guise as Ali G. Check out some of his interviews on YouTube and you will see what a laugh riot (and profoundly thought-provoking) Ali G Live could be!
For those of you who think that no one could really replace the often caricatured but never equalled brilliance of Larry King himself, for those of you who think that no one could recapture the art of drawing engaging comments from guests by asking them seemingly simplistic questions, rest easy knowing that even though King will be leaving his nightly show, he will still host the occasional CNN special. So all of you Larry King fans out there will still get your Larry King fix.