At the very end of the premiere episode of his new CNN show, Piers Morgan Tonight, Morgan turned to his first interviewee, Oprah Winfrey, and asked “How have I done?” “You have been surprising,” was her carefully chosen answer. “Surprisingly bad?” Morgan asked with a nervous chuckle. “No just surprising,” Winfrey reiterated. Actually, there was little surprising about Morgan debut interview as CNN’s successor to Larry King. After months of hyping his provocative style, Morgan came across as a capable interviewer but spent the hour worshiping at the church of Oprah, calling her queen/American royalty, the most powerful woman in America, world’s most famous interviewer, etc and throwing mostly softball questions at her.
Morgan was hurt by the long time gap between the taping of the interview at the very beginning of the year and its air date. Winfrey had since appeared publicly at other places, including before the TV critics as part of her new cable network OWN’s portion of the winter TV Critics Assn.’s press tour. In fact, whole segments from Morgan’s interview, including the first 10 minutes, were exact replicas of Winfrey’s TCA session, with Winfrey repeating some of her answers almost verbatim. The early taping also didn’t allow Morgan to address the ratings declines for OWN after its solid premiere.