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Time for Some Real Questions: What Piers Morgan in King's Seat Will Mean

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    CNN made it official this morning, announcing that Piers Morgan will take over Larry King's prime-time hour with "a candid, in-depth newsmaker interview program" starting in January.

    The British newsman, best known here as the judge of "America's Got Talent," was respectful of the man he is replacing, saying in a release that  "I have watched 'Larry King Live' for much of the last 25 years" and that he considers King "the greatest TV interviewer of them all."

    But in truth, the very-likable King was a proudly under-prepared walking advertisement for whatever big-name guest he had on that evening. Questions were soft to the point of painful, ridiculous statements went unchecked and obvious follow-up questions were ignored.

    Guests like Michael Jackson's family crawled all over King, who was just happy to get them on the show. In one shocking moment, Joe Jackson only stopped his rambling once and that was to answer his cell phone -- on air.

    King got a free pass for his interview free-passes because his ratings stayed high and he brought in the big guests. But as the numbers slipped, so did his hold on the famous chair.

    Morgan is known in the UK as the brash newspaper editor, the youngest-ever to helm Rupert Murdoch's notorious tabloid News of the World. This was before he took over the daily red-top the Daily Mirror, a post he held for nine years.

    But unlike many of his UK newspaper counter-parts, Morgan has a charm and camera friendliness to go with the swagger. He has proven he's a great showman as the host of "Talent" where he handles the Simon Cowell tough-guy roll with grace and charm.

    But the most exciting thing about the switch is that Morgan will have the ability, and the will, to steer the interviews appropriately, to ask the tough question when they come up without needing a producer screaming into his ear piece. This is not to say that he's going to make things uncomfortable for the guests. But it's just no longer going to be a free ride all the time.

    With Morgan sitting in the seat, the questions are going to be 70 percent sharper and more interesting automatically. For the first time in a long time, this slot will truly be considered an interview show rather than a celebrity infomercial.