Talk TV: Piers Morgan attracts mixed reviews after network launch

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Piers Morgan on Talk TVImage source, TalkTV
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Piers Morgan says his programme will give a platform to victims of cancel culture

News and debate channel TalkTV has launched to mixed reviews from critics.

Piers Morgan, Sharon Osbourne and Tom Newton Dunn are among the presenters on the new Rupert Murdoch-owned network.

Many reviews focused on Morgan's TV return, following his exit from ITV last year, and his launch interview with former US president Donald Trump.

The Telegraph said TalkTV got off to an "impressive start", but the Independent described the interview with Trump as a "toe-curling embarrassment".

The channel launched on Monday, nearly a year after the launch of another news and debate network, GB News.

Piers Morgan Uncensored, which was broadcast in the 20:00 slot, attracted an average audience of 317,000 to its first episode, overnight figures suggest.

Many critics said the launch of TalkTV was more assured than that of GB News, which was beset with technical issues in its early weeks and has lost several high-profile presenters.

The Telegraph's Anita Singh wrote: "Morgan's talent is for delivering the agenda in an entertaining way. He understands showbiz."

"As launch nights go, it was a purring Rolls-Royce to GB News' sputtering Robin Reliant," she continued.

"It's clear that there are experienced people behind the scenes. Plenty of money, too. The production values are so slick, it feels like a channel that's been running for years."

'Jeremy Clarkson tribute act'

But, she added: "His interview with Trump was fine, except that every line had been relentlessly trailed in recent days, so none of it was new.

"All in all, an impressive start. If Morgan can keep landing major interviews - Will Smith would be great - it should keep people interested."

Other critics were less positive.

"The actual content of the interview was mind-numbingly boring," stated The Independent's Holly Baxter, before Morgan pointed out on Twitter that her newspaper had simultaneously written up multiple news lines from it.

"If conversations from 2019 being tediously rehashed and cold coals being raked over in the hope that one slightly tepid ember might remain are your thing, then you're gonna enjoy everything about Piers Morgan's new show," she said.

"If you're looking for something new, you might want to change to the shopping channel or something. Because it's clear Morgan and his cancelled-but-not-cancelled mates desperately want you to huff their recreational outrage at a very special price. But any price is too high to pay for this stuff - trust me."

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Image caption,
Donald Trump served as US president from 2016 until 2020

There was a slightly warmer reaction from Adam Sherwin of sister outlet iNews, who said it was an "impressively slick start... With the studio well lit, TalkTV is clearly operating on a different editorial and technical level to the GB News bunker".

"The opening salvo suggested a better resourced, much more professional operation than GB News, which never recovered from its troubled launch.

"Morgan, who promises to 'cancel the cancel culture', is clearly relishing his return to screens in a show that is designed for viewers in the US and Australia as much as the UK."

During his interview, Mr Trump repeated his belief that the 2020 US election was rigged, and became irritated when Morgan said he had not provided any evidence for the claim.

The interview is split over two nights, with the second half airing on Tuesday. Mr Trump will say Harry and Meghan should be stripped of their royal titles in the next part of the interview.

Morgan, who exited ITV breakfast show Good Morning Britain following an on-air row about the Duchess of Sussex which saw him storm off the set, has recently goaded his critics about giving him bad reviews.

"The only way the PR campaign for Piers Morgan Uncensored could possibly get any better," Morgan tweeted last week, "is if the Guardian review it and says it's terrible, unwatchable and the end of civilisation as we know it. Don't let me down you whiny woke wastrels!"

The Guardian's reviewer Mark Lawson responded: "OK then, you preening pugilistic publicist, let's see what we can do."

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In a two-star review, Lawson said Morgan's opening monologue "showcased the weakest part of his broadcasting persona: the Jeremy Clarkson tribute act revealed when he is allowed to speak uninterrupted for too long".

He said Morgan's interview with Trump "was irritatingly cut into fillets with before and after comments from the presenter, rather than trusted to flow as a conversation".

"The tone throughout was at the populist end of the spectrum," Lawson said. He concluded his review by asking: "In an increasingly crowded news broadcast market, will there be enough finance to pay Morgan's salary, or viewers to satisfy his ego?"

James Jackson of The Times, a newspaper owned by Murdoch's News UK, said "landing an extensive interview with the former president really was a coup", adding that Morgan "did well to contain [Trump's] incoherent spouting forth on geopolitics".

"His interview style continues to feel more 'shoot from the hip' than, say, the heavily researched questions of Emily Maitlis, and certainly a long way from Oprah Winfrey's unchallenging emotional wallow. Trump is not easy to handle but Morgan managed to challenge him on, for example, his complaint about the withdrawal from Afghanistan."

Jackson concluded: "That Trump is a man who belongs more in showbusiness than politics did not do the launch episode any harm. This was a bold, confident start, as Morgan himself would no doubt be happy to declare."

Image source, PA Media
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Sharon Osbourne is also appearing on a nightly programme on the network called The Talk

Morgan has said his programme will give a platform to people who have been victims of cancel culture, where public figures lose their jobs or receive backlash for expressing opinions not deemed to be in keeping with the politically correct consensus.

His show will be broadcast in the US and Australia as well as the UK as part of a multi-platform international deal Morgan has signed.

Morgan's claim that the liberal establishment is silencing voices such as his was hypocritical, according to The Evening Standard's Nick Curtis, given the presenter has been given a new broadcast platform.

"As Danny Dyer so eloquently put it, this does my nut in," Curtis continued. "But satire died long ago, so it doesn't matter that the set, the graphics and a section called 'The World's Gone Nuts' look like they were cut from Armando Iannucci's news-show spoof The Day Today for being too lame.

"On his second show, Morgan will proudly treat Trump walking out on him as a triumph of journalism, and talk to Sharon Osbourne, on the TV channel that employs them both, about being cancelled because of Meghan Markle. This is Bizarro TV. Will it work? Sadly, probably, yes."

Felicity Cross of The Sun, which is also owned by Murdoch's News UK, said: "After the most tumultuous year of his life, Piers Morgan was finally back doing what he does best last night.

"And that's speaking his mind, pushing back against censorship and sharing agenda-setting world exclusives. No topics were off the table - he slayed 'Princess Pinocchio' [Meghan Markle] and tackled Trump. But there was a sense of humour to it.

"As he confidently steered his show solo, Piers showed he's moved on from his 'divorce' from former telly wife Susanna [Reid]."

She concluded: "Welcome to the airwaves, TalkTV."

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

"The launch of TalkTV was definitely more smooth-sailing than GB News, avoiding the disruption of technical difficulties that plagued the latter last summer," wrote Metro's Sabrina Barr.

"However, the continued references to 'wokeness', 'cancel culture' and 'snowflakes' made Piers Morgan Uncensored feel tedious and far less current than it believes itself to be."

Talk TV will air three hours of new programming each weekday evening, while Talk Radio shows will be visualised during off-peak hours.

Julia Hartley-Brewer and Jeremy Kyle are among the presenters on Talk Radio, which is also owned by Murdoch's News UK.

The company says Talk TV will feature hourly news bulletins, sports and entertainment shows as well as current affairs, debate, opinion and documentaries.

The Murdoch-owned publisher HarperCollins will release Morgan's future books, while the Australian media mogul's newspaper The Sun will publish his columns.

Image source, PA Media
Image caption,
Piers Morgan exited ITV breakfast show Good Morning Britain last year

TalkTV marks Morgan's return to broadcasting after his high-profile exit from ITV's Good Morning Britain last year.

Morgan left the breakfast show after saying he "didn't believe a word" the Duchess of Sussex had said in an interview with Oprah Winfrey.

His comments sparked a record 58,000 complaints to Ofcom. The UK media regulator later rejected the complaints, however, saying that limiting his views would be a "chilling restriction" on free expression.

Osbourne left her role on US chat show The Talk last year after a heated on-air debate about racism, during which she defended Morgan.