The premiere of Piers Morgan Tonight revealed host Piers Morgan to be clever, tenacious, vain, a flatterer, and fitfully funny. Oh, and he had a big-name first guest: Oprah Winfrey, who talked about contemplating suicide at age 14, her quest to interview Michael Vick, and how many times she’s had her heart broken (twice).

Morgan pumped up his subject shamelessly: “She’s the biggest, richest, most powerful star in the world!” “You would make a fantastic mother!” “Everything you touch is a hit — could you just touch me?” Morgan, reaching for the highest compliment a fawning British subject could pay a woman, said Winfrey was “the American Queen.” Oprah replied, regally: “I will accept it.”

The America’s Got Talent judge has a bit of a doughy face and a small mouth (this is what happens when you host a talk show with at least as many close-ups on you as on your guest — people look more closely at you), and his clever-schoolboy demeanor serves him well. The hosts revealed they were both trying to book dog fancier Michael Vick as a guest, and Morgan offered to bet her “100 British pounds” on who’ll snap him up first. “Make it two,” said Oprah coolly.

Oprah gassed on and on about her newly launched OWN network, which was doubtlessly a big reason she agreed to the highly publicized interview. But she was more interesting, of course, when she inadvertently revealed her ego — she said her role in life is nothing less than to “evolve the consciousness” of people. More interesting was her self-definition: “I am a Negro, formerly, born in 1954, in Mississippi when it was an apartheid state” and that therefore it was “a miracle,” what she’s attained.

She spoke about losing a baby when she was 14, saying that the loss was “a relief” because “I thought I was going to have to kill myself,” given the strict rules she was raised under at home. In general, Winfrey was probably as open as she’s ever been with an interviewer, which is to say, not much, but Morgan extracted some nice moments, even if he had to beg: “Give a new boy a break.”

As for whether the “new boy” is a worthy replacement for Larry King… come on, you didn’t watch Larry King Live, did you? Simply by having facts about his subject at hand and speaking coherently, Morgan aced King on his opening night. I’m looking forward to seeing him interview Howard Stern tomorrow night.

Did you watch Piers Morgan Tonight?

Twitter: @kentucker