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Larry King to step down this fall

CNN talk show host Larry King

CNN talk show host Larry King Photo Credit: PBS

The suspenders: What will we do without the suspenders?

Or the voice - that rat-a-tat-tat just-the-facts voice made for radio (which it was, many years ago)?

Who could replace that voice?

Larry King reminded his dwindling audience Tuesday night that he started "Larry King Live" on CNN in 1985, with Mario Cuomo sitting across from him, and 40,000 interviews later, there sat Bill Maher, an HBO host and possible successor.

What a ride: Sanctioned by the Guinness Book of World Records earlier this month as the longest-running TV show hosted by the same person in the same time slot on the same network, King will finally hang it all up, suspenders included, sometime this fall, he and the network announced last night.

This was absolutely expected. As his show drew near its 25th anniversary this month, ratings had dropped an almost unimaginable 44 percent from 2009, to about 760,000 viewers. No one - King included - survives a tumble like that.

"Before I start the show tonight, I want to share some personal news with you," King said, mournfully. This departure, he said with studied sincerity, "will give me more time for my wife and I to get to the kids' Little League games." (That, at age 76, he still has kids in Little League uniforms is perhaps a miraculous fact in itself.)

"Larry asks the questions that most of the American public wanted to know, and all of the [potential replacements] don't ask those kinds of questions," said Gail Evans, a former executive vice president of CNN who left in 2002 and was in charge of the network's talk shows. "I don't know who's going to be the voice of the Everyman because with Oprah [Winfrey] and Larry both leaving, they filled a huge gap in a lot of people's knowledge."

In a statement, Jon Klein, King's boss and the person charged with finding his replacement, said: "Larry has been a giant in the industry for as long as most of us can remember. [He is] tireless and curious, respectful and inquisitive, caring, generous, influential, a citizen of the world."

Even with all the raps against King - too soft, too easy, too rambling - that seems like a perfectly fair assessment.

Meanwhile, King said he wouldn't be going too far: There will be "several Larry King specials on major national and international subjects," he promised. Perhaps another Guinness record awaits.

 

Who could replace Larry King?

 

The list is obvious and not so obvious. For example, late Tuesday,Huffington Post posed the question to readers, who then voted. Number eight on the list? Bill Clinton.

Names have been floated for months, if not years. Some of those names:

Katie Couric: CNN wanted her, but she has a year left on her contract. Could CNN and CBS work out a "sharing arrangement?" Anything may be possible.

Ryan Seacrest: Like King, he could ask the Everyman and Woman questions. But he's also tied to "American Idol" and his popular radio show.

Joy Behar: Her CNN Headline News show has been successful; plus she was born in Brooklyn, like Larry. Works "The View" in the morning, this at night?

Piers Morgan: British tabloid editor, judge on "America's Got Talent," and rumored recently as the likeliest replacement.

Jeff Probst: "Survivor" host, and "Larry King Live" stand-in on occasion.

Bill Clinton: Well, what about the 42nd president? Possibly the most inspired choice (Fox News Roger Ailes once wanted him for his network.) But do ex-presidents do talk shows?

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