Image: ITV

Will ‘Life Stories’ be the same without Piers Morgan?

I’ve written previously for The Boar about the ever so controversial figure of Piers Morgan. Indeed, to say the presenter divides opinion is the least controversial view of all time. Back then, he had left Good Morning Britain in a storm, with rumours igniting about whether, given subsequent falling ratings, ITV would invite him back as the lead presenter. That is most certainly no more. With the recent announcement Morgan was leaving his Life Stories programme after 12 years, he has cut his final ties with ITV for the foreseeable future. 

Why? To launch his new global TV show for News Corp, owned by the one and only Rupert Murdoch. Morgan previously worked for Murdoch in the 1980s and 1990s, where he ran the ‘Bizarre’ celebrity column on the Sun. Aged 29, he was made the youngest national newspaper editor in over 50 years when Murdoch appointed him in charge of the now-defunct News of the World, which was built around celebrity scoops. The stint lasted only a couple of years before Morgan moved to key redtop rival the Daily Mirror, where he took a strong stance against the Iraq War.

Nearly three decades later, Morgan and Murdoch have reunited to help launch Murdoch’s new TV channel: TalkTV. Morgan, given his clout, will be the prime time presenter, with the forthcoming channel being regarded as a rival to GB News. His show will also be broadcast on Fox News in America and Sky News Australia. 

Whatever his opinionated and provocative remarks, his programme, with 100 shows, was able to generate a large audience

Nobody can judge the quality of Murdoch’s channel: not a single second of airtime has been broadcast. We can judge, however, what Morgan’s complete departure will mean for ITV. He is an individual with a contacts book perhaps nobody else can beat. His appeal and interviewees range from pop stars to sportspeople, politicians to TV reality sensations. Whatever his opinionated and provocative remarks, his programme, with 100 shows, was able to generate a large audience. 

Just look at the guest list. Before the 2010 election, then Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown was on the programme, recognising the show would offer the opportunity to present a different side to himself. Most importantly, it had a large audience, but he was ultimately unable to convince he was deserving of its vote. Sir Keir Starmer just recently appeared on Life Stories, recognising he was behind in polling and needed a transformative message. Other famous guests included Sharon Osbourne and Sir Richard Branson, both very well known. 

ITV has announced that Morgan’s final guest, journalist Kate Garraway, will take over the show for its remaining three episodes in the series. Garraway is a fine journalist who proved herself adept as a colleague of Morgan’s on Good Morning Britain, and presents on Smooth Radio. Over the years, Garraway has been able to get individuals to open up and provided detailed responses. 

How does she manage this? Because she is deeply empathetic and compassionate. She is the yin to Piers Morgan’s yang. Morgan himself was excellent at trying to elicit information from his guests in a combative and honest way; that is the reputation he has wanted to project. But sometimes the calm, slow approach that relaxes a guest can be just as, if not more, effective for learning something new. 

The very reason Life Stories did so well was because Morgan was, at heart, a real Marmite figure

Who knows whether Piers Morgan will ever return to ITV in the future. He lasted three years at CNN, eight years at the Daily Mirror and six on Good Morning Britain. I often think of him as the very representation of the cat with nine lives. Knocked down after adversity, dusting himself off and ready to take on the next challenge. The very reason Life Stories did so well was because Morgan was, at heart, a real Marmite figure. His talk show is certainly something that will dominate much of his time and offer Morgan more of a global reach. 

It remains unclear and ambiguous whether the remaining three Life Stories episodes will be the final ever instalments. A good guest and wide ranging conversation has previously always been guaranteed, which I have no doubt will continue with Kate Garraway. However, ITV have been uncertain as to how wide her contacts book is and the new guests that would want to take part. Personally, I wouldn’t write off Morgan returning, perhaps in a decade, maybe longer, to anchor a revived Life Stories full of more guests, gossip and revelations. You heard it here first.

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