Regis Philbin's final answer: He's retiring from daytime TV after 28 years
Can a guy who has been on television for nearly 50 years just step away from one of the biggest gigs on daytime TV?
That's the question we'll all have fun kicking around following longtime host Regis Philbin's surprise announcement today that he'll be leaving his signature daytime show Live with Regis and Kelly at the end of his current contract -- probably at the end of the summer, though he announced no firm date.
"I don't want to alarm anybody...This will be my last year on the show," he said, while talking with co-host Kelly Ripa early in today's show. "It's been a long time. It's been 28 years...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, you know, never even dreaming that I would one day have the ability, or whatever it takes, to get in front of the camera and talk to it. "
When original co-host Kathie Lee Gifford left the show ten years ago amid rumors of diva-like behavior and conflicts with the always-affable Philbin, the program seemed to barely miss a beat, aided by his mastery of the form and Ripa's surprising talent as a co-host (likely also helped that Gifford's oddball antics seemed to snark off as many fans as they attracted).
But Philbin, who at age 79 has hosted one TV show or another since 1964, has been the glue holding it all together, leaving some to wonder if his departure is another sign of the waning power of syndicated television.
A longtime chat and game show host who also served as Joey Bishop's sidekick during his '60s-era late night show, Philbin has set records in the Guinness book for his longevity on camera. From his bio on the Live with Regis and Kelly website: "Currently in its 22nd season in national syndication, "LIVE! with Regis and Kelly" originated in 1983 when Philbin created "The Morning Show" for WABC in his native Manhattan. It quickly became the number one show in the market. Kathie Lee Gifford joined him in June 1985, and in September 1988 the program debuted in national syndication and the title was changed to "Live with Regis & Kathie Lee." In 2001, Philbin was joined by Ripa, and the program entered a new era as "LIVE! with Regis and Kelly."
As with any juicy showbiz story, the questions remain. Why is Philbin leaving now? Does he have any other projects lined up? Can a guy who has worked this long just walk away from the fame and cash?
And who will take his place, if anyone?