Larry King will sign off his weeknight CNN show on Dec. 16, and having done all I can to avoid watching him the last few years, I'm not going to be a hypocrite and start now.
To me, King's show has been the epitome of empty calories, a peculiar mix of newsmakers that includes celebrities and politicians and the oddity of the moment and -- oh, hey, Michael Jackson died? Let's drop everything and do nothing but that.
King's work habits have also left something to be desired the last few years, especially in the realm of pop culture. Sure, he can book major guests, but the questions his producers feed him come out awkwardly when the program books someone who hasn't spoken at the U.N. lately. In short, I see no reason to prematurely eulogize the guy -- as the New York Times predictably did this week -- just because he's hanging up his suspenders.
Piers Morgan will occupy King's slot, and I'm mildly curious to see what the replacement looks like. But the truth is that CNN is a mess right now, with "Parker-Spitzer" serving as the farewell gift from former president Jon Klein that nobody really wants and the rest of the lineup seeking an identity. Building around Anderson Cooper makes some sense -- he's distinguished himself as a sharp interviewer, especially of wacko guests, like birthers -- but even he isn't exactly setting the world ablaze ratings-wise.
CNN does its best work when it showcases strong international coverage -- the kind of material that studio-bound hosts at Fox News and MSNBC seldom explore. But since nobody is talking about promoting Fareed Zakaria to a major role just yet, the expectation is that the network is going to continue seeking a down-the-center sweet spot that has, frankly, eluded it for several years.
Anyway, so long, Larry. I'll be sure not to drop by and say "Hello" the next time I have breakfast at Nate 'n Al's.