Gayle King and Charles Barkley made the official announcement Saturday of a new weekly primetime series for CNN: King Charles.
The live show is set to debut this fall and run through 2024, and is a central feature of CNN boss Chris Licht’s efforts to revive the network’s primetime schedule. Its 9 p.m. ET hour has lacked a permanent host since Chris Cuomo was fired in December 2021.
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King and Barkley, though, will fill one night of the week, Wednesday.
Licht has been taking a different approach to programming the 9 p.m. ET slot, with a mix of shows and formats rather than giving one personality a five-nights-a-week gig. The network has been trying a mixture of live events, like town halls and one-on-one interviews including Jake Tapper’s sit-down with Bill Maher, in the slot.
King and Barkley made the announcement on TNT’s NBA playoffs pregame coverage.
“What I think is so great for the both of us is that it’s live TV,” King said. “To me, live TV is like working without a net. So whatever happens, happens. I like that.”
She said that she “wasn’t looking for another job,” as she remains under contract for CBS Mornings, and Barkley will continue on WBD Sports.
Barkley said that he also didn’t “want to be on TV more” but agreed to it when offered the opportunity to team with King.
King Charles is being billed as a discussion show. In a memo to staffers, Licht wrote that the show will be “an exciting news way we are delivering culturally relevant programming and unique perspectives to our audience, from two incredibly dynamic personalities.”
King said that they will talk about politics on the show, but Barkley added, “but we don’t want to say we are a liberal, conservative, Republican, Democrat. That is one of the things that has already ruined television in general. She is going to be a straight shooter, and you know I am going to be a straight shooter.”
He added: “All I want is people, even if I disagree with them, to be honest with me. I don’t want them saying things to get clickbait. That is one of the things that is what drives me crazy about people in our profession right now.”
Said King: “Everyone I know has an opinion about something. I just think we have to figure out a way to have a good conversation without tearing each other down, I think we can do that.”
As an example, Barkley suggested that a wave of gun shootings this week would be a topic for the show if it were on the air now. “The image that people have of us around the world is not so good,” King said. “I know friends who are thinking about leaving America because their children are about to go to school.”
She also brought up the possibility of lighter subjects like food and pop culture.
“I want people to tune in to see, ‘What are Charles and Gayle going to do?’” King said, adding that “it will be fun to watch the dynamic between the two of us.”
Here is Licht’s full memo to staffers:
To my CNN Colleagues,
I am thrilled to share that CNN will be home to a new show featuring the extraordinary duo of Gayle King and Charles Barkley, aptly titled King Charles, which will air weekly in primetime beginning this fall and running into 2024. This show will be an exciting new way we are delivering culturally relevant programming and unique perspectives to our audience, from two incredibly dynamic personalities. We are excited that they are both able to join us in addition to their current respective roles with Gayle continuing to anchor CBS Mornings. King Charles exemplifies the one-team, one-company mentality with Charles playing double duty at CNN and in his role at WBD Sports.
There will be more to come on this in the months ahead, but in the meantime, please join me in welcoming Gayle and Charles to CNN.
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