Curtain time for Larry King?Of all the institutional media fixtures in the American mainstream, none has given more air time to UFOs than Larry King. And despite the format (a freeway wreckage of too many guests pancaked into too little space), despite his own limitations (a flair for the non sequitur, the undisciplined, unfocused stream-of-consciousness questions), CNN’s most enduring prime-time brand has nevertheless managed to produce some memorable debates. Chief among them was getting Barry Goldwater to tell the nation how former JCS chairman Curtis LeMay reamed him out for inquiring about classified UFO material.
By By Billy Cox
By By Billy Cox
In short, no one is better positioned to take this ongoing contentiousness to the next level than Larry King. But Friday night’s latest installment was yet another reminder that Mr. Suspenders doesn’t have the chops for getting us there. And he may soon be history, anyway.
King’s Nielsens are reportedly off 44 percent from 2009, and his nightly 759,000 audience is less than half of the 1.6 million viewers who tuned in during his 1998 peak. Rumor has it he’ll be getting the hook following his 25th anniversary in June. And King’s latest discussion — which played off Stephen Hawking’s Discovery Channel spin on ET intelligence — suggests why.
Yeah, the tired formula lineup of UFOs v. Radiowaves had something to do with it. The guests were physicist Michio Kaku, astronomers David Brin and Seth Shostak (again), and — whee! — Dan Aykroyd as the designated UFO foil. Aykroyd, by the way, was a hoot, and it was hard to tell if the erstwhile Conehead was being campy or serious by suggesting ET should be criminally prosecuted under Title 18 of the U.S. Code for abducting human beings like Betty and Barney Hill.
When King asked how authorities might arrest the alien perps, Aykroyd replied with his own disconnected King-like staccato: “I don’t think they’re a mass threat. If you want to save lives in this country, teach people to drive better, remove the cocaine appetite in the United States and stop people from texting while driving. That’s the way to save lives. I look at this through the entertainment filter, Larry, that’s why I’m here, to entertain.”
No kidding. And that gave Larry the opening he’d been salivating for: “I gathered that, and you’re gonna do another ‘Ghostbusters’ and I’m gonna be in it again.”
Yep, it all fell apart pretty quickly after that. King to Kaku: “Avatar — Did you see Avatar?” Kaku: “I did. Great movie.” King: “You liked it. As a physicist, you liked it?” (What was he supposed to say? “Yes, as a physicist, I liked it, but as a chinchilla rancher, I have a few issues, and here they are …”?)
So yeah, Larry really did it, he actually polled the guests about their favorite sci-fi films and tottered off into the netherlands of near-incoherence: “What do you believe, Dr. Kaku? Believe believe.” “Seth, what do you believe? Believe believe.”
Is this really the sort of arena sport we’re into now — watching a 76-year-old man struggling to keep his eighth marriage from falling apart while his eroding conversational skills hit the ice patch and fishtail slo-mo into the bricks? Here’s what De Void believes. Believes believes:
Larry can still bow out in a blaze of glory if assisted by carefully worded note cards. He should ask John Podesta to renew his call for UFO transparency on national TV, and book him opposite someone from the Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base or the Pentagon, and ask why they never released the radar records on the Stephenville bogey as it surged towards President Bush’s Texas ranch in 2008. He might actually be able to salvage something, like a national conversation with legs.