During the debut this week of Larry King's new talk show on Hulu, his conversation with "Family Guy" and "Ted" creator Seth MacFarlane swerved from cryonics to the existence of God to bestiality (don’t ask).
"I knew this was different than 'Larry King Live,'" the host giggled at one point.
He can be forgiven for allowing himself a joyful laugh celebrating his comeback – and perhaps a chuckle at the expense of CNN, where ratings recently hit a two-decade low, nearly a year and a half after the end of the quarter-century run of "Larry King Live."
The new show, "Larry King Now," marks the welcome return of a talk show king who lives to ask questions – even if they don't always hold up as well as his invariably suspenders-secured pants.
MacFarlane, one of our strongest sardonic wits, seemed to play straight man at times to King, whose queries included:
•"Ever think you're weird?" (MacFarlane answered in the affirmative.)
•"Why do we love someone who is ... a weird bear?" (King noted his religious father-in-law cried at the sweet ending of the unabashedly raunchy "Ted.")
•“Do you know that you offend people?” (Another affirmative from MacFarlane.)
King also cited the bong-puffing teddy bear star of "Ted" and Lenny Bruce in making a case for legalization of marijuana. He learned how to draw Stewie from "Family Guy" and sang, unprompted, a bar of "Edelweiss."
For all the goofiness, the opening installment made us realize how much we've missed King, whose stream-of-consciousness, curiosity-driven questioning style and general lack of overt partisanship, makes him both a throwback and a breath of fresh air at a time when too many talk shows are clouded by rancor.
King clearly is beyond his prime as the go-to host for coverage of major breaking news. The new show's personality-driven format plays to his strengths, and its length – a half-hour – is a smart less-is-more move.
Not that King is lacking for energy or ambition – he's a co-founder of Ora TV, the new digital outfit behind "Larry King Now," which could just as well be called "Larry King Alive."
The show will stream four nights a week, beginning Monday. In the meantime, check out a clip from his rollicking chat with MacFarlane:
Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multi-media NYCity News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is the former City Editor of the New York Daily News, where he started as a reporter in 1992. Follow him on Twitter.