Piers Morgan - controversial ex-editor of the Mirror, dubiously qualified judge of talent on both sides of the pond, and successor to the braces of Larry King - is a divisive figure. He has been described as an obnoxious idiot, an odious windbag, a pompous cretin, and an arrogant, smarmy, egotistical, self-satisfied, droning buffoon. His critics have been less kind.
In light of Piers's new series of Life Stories on ITV1, I believe it is time for a re-assessment of the much-maligned Mr Morgan. Here are 10 reasons why you should love the man people hate:
- He is a bona fide brilliant interviewer. This last month alone, two of Piers Morgan's Life Stories interviews provoked front page headlines, eliciting brand new quotes from TV icons Bill Roache (who claimed a jaw-dropping 1,000 notches on his bedpost) and Dennis Waterman (brazenly confessing to punching ex-wife Rula Lenska). His days as a newspaper editor may be in the past, but Piers still has a nose for a scoop, utilising his journalistic rigour to coax fresh revelations out of countless famous names and political figures, from Peter Andre and Cheryl Cole to Rick Santorum and Christine O'Donnell. He is fearless, he listens, and he never shirks his responsibility to ask the tough questions that people really want answering. As an interviewer, Piers is genuinely one of the best there is.
- He honed his craft and did the graft.
Despite his posh name and plummy accent, Piers wasn't born with a silver spoon in his mouth. After an ordinary upbringing and comprehensive school education, he started as a junior reporter on the Streatham and Tooting News, hauling himself up the ladder in the years that followed. He is a self-made man who didn't get a shortcut to the top thanks to daddy's connections or some old boys' network. Everything he's achieved has been through hard work, grit and determination.
- He's entertaining and interesting on Twitter.
From entertainment to news to politics to sport, not a day goes by without Piers opining on a smorgasbord of topics. Whether you agree with him or not, he always has something to say and his views often provoke healthy debate. His 'Twanter' with Lord Sugar, Rio Ferdinand and Gary Lineker is always an amusing highlight of my Twitter day. Articulate and erudite, Piers sets a linguistic example with his meticulous spelling. He's also interactive, reading, replying and retweeting fans and critics alike.
- He discovered Susan Boyle.
One of the biggest stars of the 21st century, the multi-million-selling global phenomenon SuBo was found under Piers's watch on Britain's Got Talent. Indeed, Susan is on record as saying that "Piersy baby" was one of the reasons she auditioned on that fateful evening in Glasgow. "He is dead handsome," Susan said of Piers in 2009, "I used to put the show on to see him." Through America's Got Talent, Piers also championed ventriloquist Terry Fator, who became the most successful talent show winner in history when he signed a $100,000,000 contract to headline at The Mirage in Las Vegas.
- He won Celebrity Apprentice USA.
Anyone who watched the 2007 star-filled season of the Donald Trump reality show saw that Piers was a deserving winner. Thanks to his ferocious work ethic, intelligent-thinking and phenomenal drive, he stormed his way through the competition, winning 11 tasks out of 13, and raising over $750,000 for charity in the process.
- His wife is way out of his league.
Have you seen his missus? Is it any wonder the man always looks so smug? Cambridge graduate Celia Walden is intelligent, beautiful and 12 years his junior. Piers serves as an inspiration for all pudgy-faced, slightly tubby men of a certain age with ambitions of punching well above their weight.
- He launched First News.
In 2006, a newspaper entered the market that was designed to get children interested in current affairs. The editorial director behind this venture was Piers Morgan and the publication currently enjoys sales figures of around 40,000 a week. Making the news appealing and accessible for this many 7- to 14-year-olds can only be a good thing.
- He's more popular than Simon Cowell.
Yes, hard as this may be to believe, when Americans want an obnoxious Brit critiquing their prodigies, they prefer to watch Morgan over Cowell. America's Got Talent, on which Piers served as a judge, enjoyed its best audience figures ever in 2011, securing an average of 11.8 million viewers across the season and 14.4m for its finale. By comparison, Simon Cowell judging the new US version of the X Factor was only able to entice a 10.9 million average, and 12.6m for the finale - around 10% less than Piers attracted.
- He has a superhumanly thick skin.
Attenborough was wrong - the creature with the toughest skin on the planet is not the whale shark, it is the greater spotted Morgan. No matter what gets thrown at him on Twitter or in the media, it all bounces off Teflon Morgan. That shell of steel has to be admired.
- He provided the world with this endlessly entertaining clip. After bombastically declaring George W Bush an idiot for falling off a Segway in 2003, karma paid Piers a visit and four years later he too achieved the near-impossible, toppling over the self-balancing scooter. As a bonus, Piers's tumble was caught on camera, allowing us to relive the moment again and again thanks to the magic of the internet. The comments left by YouTube users underneath the video are testament to how much pleasure it has brought people.
So there you have it - 10 reasons to think differently of Mr Marmite Morgan. And that's just for starters. I'm sure there are many more reasons to like Piers Morgan - just ask the man himself...
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