WHC Insider’s Tammy Haddad for the Huffington Post:
Don’t listen to the critics. If Larry King had given a thought to the naysayers back in 1985, he would have returned to radio after the first week. When we launched the show 25 years ago, no one liked the idea of an hour-long interview program.
Ted Turner figured out the advantage of television for long-form interviews. I remember the night Ted was our guest on the Larry King Radio Show, broadcast from the bowels of Mutual Radio headquarters in Crystal City, Virginia.
It was such a thrill to finally score the bigger-than-life media mogul and winner of America’s Cup. At the time, Larry King was an established radio host, but Turner saw the primetime potential.
The producers’ biggest fear switching to TV? How to go from three-hour interviews (one hour interview, two hours questions from listeners) to just one. Imagine that concept now? Good interviews don’t happen by accident, but are a complicated dance between interviewer and subject. The best interviews are ones where the audience doesn’t see the individual dance steps, but a sweeping verbal theater. You are the lead, the director and choreographer. You get people talking from their head and their heart.
People don’t just want to hear what their favorite stars have to say; they want to watch them squirm, fidget, freeze… and yes, sometimes cry. In your first week, you have shown your star guests to be real and relatable, abrupt and self satisfied, and sometimes fragile. I learned something about each one.
Ignore the critics who are stuck on the fact that you’re taping the interviews. The additional research, the ability to pluck out the most interesting bits, to weave together the complete package, is invaluable. You’re right to put your viewer’s interests first.
And for those that think the interviews should be shorter: Ross Perot didn’t announce he was running for president on Larry King Live until about 35 minutes into the show — and he changed an election.
Piers, thanks for crossing “the pond” to get some really big stars and headline newsmakers back on TV with all their foibles and follies. We are watching, tweeting and laughing along with you and the critics.
Tammy Haddad is President of Haddad Media and was one of the creators and executive producer of Larry King Live, and MSNBC’s former Washington VP.