Regis Philbin, a man who’s logged nearly 17,000 hours on the air, has announced that he’s leaving Live with Regis and Kelly. He’s been with the show since it began in 1983. After all this time, could the show possibly continue with another male co-host?
Originally known as The Morning Show, it began as a local program in New York on WABC-TV. Philbin and Cyndy Garvey were the initial hosts and had worked together on a similar program on the West Coast called A.M. Los Angeles. Garvey was replaced by Ann Abernathy who was then replaced by Kathie Lee Johnson (later Gifford). It was at this point that the show really took off in the ratings. In September 1988, it was under the name Live with Regis and Kathie Lee.
After 12 years, Gifford decided to depart from the show in an effort to pursue her singing career and spend more time with her family. For most of 2000-2001, the show experimented with various guests co-hosting with Philbin. Soap star Kelly Ripa (All My Children) stuck out as a favorite and has been matching wits with Philbin for 10 years now.
While the ladies on the show have changed, Philbin has been a constant, save numerous vacation days and breaks for his health, like a blood clot being removed from his leg, hip replacement surgery, and triple heart bypass surgery. Still, Philbin’s decision to leave comes as a bit of a surprise. The energetic and irascible host will be walking away from a salary of an estimated $15 million a year.
On yesterday’s show, he told viewers, “This will be my last year on this show…. It was the biggest thrill of my life… There is a time that everything must come to an end for certain people on camera, especially certain old people.” Today, he fired his agent of 30 years, Paradigm’s Jim Griffin.
Disney, which distributes Live with Regis and Kelly, has several months to find a replacement for Philbin. There are certainly many to choose from as lots of interesting prospects have sat next to Ripa over the years. It remains to be seen if Ripa’s name will get top billing with a new pairing.
What do you think? Can the show survive without Philbin? If so, who should replace him?
Image courtesy Disney.