Good-bye to Larry King: We’ll Miss What Made His Show Unique

Larry King Says So Long (Photo: CNN/YouTube)

Larry King Says So Long (Photo: CNN/YouTube)

It really was the end of an era. Think about it: How many TV personalities last 25 years in the same time period, as Larry King did on CNN?

So it was with a mix of awe, bemusement and heartfelt sentiment that we watched the farewell broadcast of “Larry King Live” Thursday night.

It was a show that, for all its star power, came across as subdued and even kind of homey, particularly when 10-year-old Cannon King, son of Larry and wife Shawn Southwick, stole the show with his uncanny impersonation of his cantankerous 77-year-old dad. It was one of the most memorable TV moments of the year: Cannon was so hilarious that it wouldn’t be surprising if he signed with an agent Friday morning.

The show had all the touches that made “Larry King Live” so unique for 25 years. The good-bye show demonstrated once again – and for the last time – King’s ability to draw some of the world’s most powerful A-list guests.

On Thursday night, these included President Obama, on videotape reciting a presidential thank-you to Larry; former President Clinton, from Little Rock, Ark.; and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, from Sacramento, who presented Larry with a proclamation identifying Thursday as “Larry King Day” in California.

But the show was also representative of that other great King trademark, the show’s ability to throw incongruous guests together for group appearances. Thus, on the farewell show, you had Larry joined in the studio by Bill Maher and Ryan Seacrest, who were later joined by Dr. Phil. Both Maher and Seacrest were frequent substitute hosts for King, but other than that, the two have nothing in common, and it showed.

Then there were the gatherings in CNN’s New York studio – first, the trio of Regis Philbin, Donald Trump and Suze Orman; and later, network news giants Diane Sawyer, Barbara Walters, Katie Couric and Brian Williams. Trump’s favorite word in the English language is “amazing” and, true to form, he declared Larry to be “an amazing guy.”

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In one of the most awkward segments of the evening, “Saturday Night Live’s” Fred Armisen appeared from New York costumed as Larry and then proceeded to interview the real Larry. When it was over, Larry (the real one) pronounced the bit “hysterical,” though a viewer at home could find it easy to disagree.

Adding to the whole mish-mash were Tweets running across the bottom of the screen from celebrities and civilians. It was hilarious, at moments of seriousness, to see this Tweet from Jenny McCarthy: “I’ll miss your sexy ass!” Or this one from Snoop Dogg: “Make sure you check the boss.” (And if anyone knows what that means, please let us know!)

One of the evening’s highlights was Tony Bennett, appearing live via satellite from a casino in Lake Charles, La., and singing “The Best is Yet to Come” in Larry’s honor. Bennett was flawless at 84.

Katie Couric came prepared with a poem, which read, in part:

Some startling shows I’ll never forget.
Tammy Faye’s eyes, Ted Haggard’s regret.
Your guests made us cry, made us laugh, made us think.
Wynona Judd told you about a God wink.
I hadn’t heard that before, so I looked the phrase up.
It’s a miracle, blessing, an overfilled cup.
That’s what you are. And as Old Blue Eyes might say,
the best is yet to come, Larry. You did it your way.

In an emotional voice, Larry King signed off for the last time. “I don’t know what to say except to you, my audience, thank you. And instead of good-bye, how about so long?”

As the show ended, a single spotlight shone on Larry’s famous table-top microphone. And a moment later, “Larry King Live” was gone forever.

We’ll miss Larry King. Will you?

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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