Regis Philbin stepping down as host of 'Live! with Regis and Whoever' [video]
[This blog post has been updated]
Rege is retiring!
Regis Philbin announced Tuesday morning that this is his last season as host of his infotainment show "Live! with Regis and Whoever." His current contract to do the show expires this year.
Here's how it went, in case you missed it:
Rege: I've got one of those announcements to make today. Yeah. You know, every now and then, you have an announcement to make around here. And I don't want to alarm anybody, but I have to tell you this because it's going to happen and the station needs to know and Gelman needs to know and we all need to know. But this will be my last year on this show.
After Rege's announcement, Disney, which owns the outfit that syndicates his show, sent out an email alerting the press that the "Live!" franchise will continue, Rege-less and that "in the coming months Disney/ABC Television Group" will be naming a new co-host "to join the talented and captivating Kelly Ripa." Presumably, one who will be paid paid less -- Forbes reported that his contracted previous to his current one was worth more than $20 million.
And, hopefully one who can goose "Live's!" ratings. Now that Oprah is retiring from daytime talk show syndication, all syndicators are making a play to take over her reign as Queen of daytime talk TV. And "Live!" isn't that far behind. For the week that ended Jan. 2 -- the most recent for which Nielsen syndicated stats are available -- Oprah clocked 6.2 million viewers while "Live!" logged just under 4 million. And there are lots more daytime viewers out there. that same week, syndicated "Wheel of Fortune" averaged nearly 12 million viewers and "Jeopardy" logged more than 9 million.
Back to Rege breaking the news to his audience today:
Rege: No. I know. It's been 28 years since I've been here and it was the biggest thrill of my life to come back to New York where I grew up as a kid watching TV in the early days.....(blah, blah, blah).....And look at this over here! [He puts his arm around Kelly.]
Audience: [Wild cheers and applause...]
Rege: So -- there is -- there is a time that, you know, everything must come to an end for certain people on camera, especially certain old people. So anyway, folks, I just want you to know that. Plenty of room to go. This is going to happen at the end of summer. Into the fall. Whatever it is, we don't know that yet. But just so that you know, okay? But we'll have a lot of fun between now and then, come on! Gelman's back. That's fun, right there!
Kelly (her blonde hair bobbing): I think I can only speak for America and all of us here when I say it is -- been a pleasure and a privilege and a dream come true and I wish I could do something to make you change your mind.
Rege: Well, now WAIT a minute!
Kelly: Now wait a second!
Rege: Wait a minute!
Kelly: Just a second!
Rege: We could reach an agreement here!
[Kelly looks coyly at audience. Audience titters]
Rege: That's very sweet of you, Kelly. I appreciate that.
Kelly: I love listening to you every day.
Rege: Just yesterday, we had an interview together and of course I was not allowed to tell anyone this because, God forbid it should leak out.
Kelly (who has never let Rege get in the last word so why should she start now): I was just thinking about that just five seconds ago.
Rege: The general manager called for me and Gelman and Art and Kelly and... so that's how...it's time for the word to be released.But, yesterday, we had a terrific interview with a guy, we rarely do interviews together but this is the TV Guide guy. What was his name again? Isn't that funny? I cannot think of his name. Began with a D... Danielle? No. It was a guy. Anyway, it happened to be a terrific reporter
Kelly: He's going to think we're insane, by the way, because everything we said now suddenly seems untrue.
Rege: Yeah. So he said to me so, how long are you going to stay? See -- there's another announcement: Kellly is going to go into her TENTH year on this show and we'll be announcing that as well.
Kelly (putting on her Sincere Face because she's about to deliver some serious hooey): It somehow seems less important now.
Rege: No, no, no. But that's what he was talking to her about, to her and to me and he said to me, how long you going to stay?
Kelly: No, he said, will you two celebrate your 20th anniversary together? And so Regis says, he goes, 'You know, honestly, I really don't know. I really can't say.'
Kelly (smiling brightly): And I looked at him and I said, 'Trust me, I'll go before he will.' So goodbye, everyone!
Rege: I feel badly about, you know, not telling him. Sworn to secrecy here. So that was an interesting situation.
So, there you have it. To recap: Rege is leaving. Kelly blindsided.
For all you serious students of TV out there: "LIVE" was originally called "The Morning Show" when Rege created it for ABC's flagship station, NYC's WABC, in the early 80's. It became the No. 1 show in that market, which is country's biggest TV market.
Kathie Lee Gifford -- who now co-hosts the tail end of NBC's "Today" show -- joined Rege on his show in June of 1985 and, a little more than three years later, the program debuted in national syndication with a new name: "Live with Regis & Kathie Lee." Ripa joined the show in 2001 which means, yes, she is about to celebrate her 10th annivesary with the program.
Lisa de Moraes
| January 18, 2011; 4:12 PM ET
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