Who Will Replace Larry King?

From Anderson to Stewart, a shortlist of candidates for the legend’s CNN slot

As Larry King begins his “victory lap,” speculation about who – or what – might replace the television legend in his live 9:00 p.m. slot on CNN is in full swing.

The network wouldn’t comment about potential successors to King’s throne (“Today is about Larry,” CNN said in a statement. “We will announce plans for the 9 p.m. hour in the weeks ahead”) but here’s a shortlist of candidates:

Anderson Cooper
Résumé: Host of CNN’s “AC 360”
Rationale: The white-haired star and Larry King’s nightly lead-in, Cooper would seem to be the most natural fit to succeed King, should the network decide to fill the slot from within. But Cooper’s ratings, like King’s, have been slumping, too – which could make the network look in a different direction.
Odds: Even

Joy Behar
Résumé: Host of HLN’s "Joy Behar Show"
Rationale: Behar – host of her eponymous nightly show on CNN’s sister cable network HLN – is on the rise. Total viewers were up 39 percent during the second quarter – the most in cable. The show was up 52 percent in primetime in June, and up 23 percent among 24-to-54-year-old viewers at 9:00 p.m.
Odds: 25 to 1

Katie Couric
Résumé: Host of "CBS Evening News"
Rationale: Couric’s CBS $15 million-per-year contract is up in 2010, and there has been talk in some TV circles that she would love a chance to return to an interview format, where she seems more comfortable. (It’s worth noting that Larry King's executive producer Wendy Walker was Couric's college roommate.) But a source close to the network says Couric has already turned CNN down.
Odds: 100 to 1

Piers Morgan
Résumé: Judge, “America’s Got Talent” and “Britain’s Got Talent”
Rationale: Earlier this month a report out of the U.K. had Morgan is “on the verge” of a four-year, $8.1 million deal to replace King. CNN would not comment on the report at the time, but they weren’t exactly denying it, either ("Larry King has been part of CNN's past and will be part of CNN's future.") According to network sources, Morgan’s name is mentioned even more than Cooper’s inside CNN.
Odds: 3 to 1

Ryan Seacrest
Résumé: Host, "American Idol"; guest-host, "Larry King Live"
Rationale: Rumors of Seacrest replacing King have been circling for a couple of years. King has said if it were up to him Seacrest, a regular fill-in for the 76-year-old icon,  "would be the best choice" to fill his shoes. Thing is, it's not up him.
Odds: 10 to 1

Bill Clinton
Résumé: Forty-Second President of the United States
Rationale: Sure, he's got a plush post-presidential speaking gig — one that's earned him $65 million since leaving office in 2001. But why the hell not? He'd be awesome.
Odds: 1,000,000 to 1]

Bill Maher
Résumé: Host, HBO's "Real Time With Bill Maher"
Rationale: Maher was handpicked by King as the first guest to appear across the table after his announcement, and the comedian immediately took the opportunity to throw his hat in the ring. "I'm honored you asked me to take over the desk," Maher quipped. "I'm ready to step in at a moment's notice. … Do you want to finish the hour or should I take over right now?" Despite CNN's newfound love of hiring opinionated hosts, Maher is probably too alienating to have a nightly pulpit.
Odds: 300 to 1

Keith Olbermann
Résumé: Host, MSNBC's "Countdown With Keith Olbermann"
Rationale: Shortly after King's announcement, Olbermann claimed King "tried, for eight years, to convince his bosses to hire me to be his [8:00 p.m.] lead-in.” CNN president Jon Klein fired back: "Well it didn’t work." And it won't here.
Odds: 5,000 to 1

Tavis Smiley
Résumé: Host, PBS' "Tavis Smiley"
Rationale: Smiley was suggested in the comments section, and he certainly has the credentials. However, before PBS, he quit NPR because of its inability to reach minorities. I'm not sure what CNN's demographics are, but I'm not sure Smiley would fare much better doing that in King's slot.
Odds: 500 to 1

Jon Stewart
Résumé: Host of Comedy Central’s “Daily Show”
Rationale: Stewart has become something of a cable news ombudsman, pointing out — and correcting — the collective missteps of Fox News, MSNBC and CNN on a nightly basis. Stewart does so almost unilaterally, but holds CNN’s feet closer to the fire than the other two. (Watch his 11-minute, 33-second excoriation of CNN over its fact-checking of “Saturday Night Live” to get a sense of just how deep a distrust in CNN Stewart carries around.) He would certainly bring with him the 25-54 demo cable advertisers covet.
Odds: 500 to 1

Glenn Beck
Résumé: Host of Fox News’ “Glenn Beck Show”
Rationale: Before you dismiss this, hear me out. Beck has developed a legion of fanatics despite his buffet dinner timeslot – and O’Reilly, the face of Fox News, is not moving anytime soon. Who’s to say he wouldn’t jump at the chance to catapult into primetime? And remember: Beck came from CNN. Admittedly, given the bad blood between the networks, this is a super-longshot.
Odds: 10,000 to 1

Campbell Brown
Résumé: Host of CNN’s “Campbell Brown”
Rationale: Just kidding!
Odds: 1,000,000 to 1

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