Will 'Live! With Kelly' Swap Regis With a Woman?
By Rob Shuter Posted Jan 18th 2011 07:00PM
Showbiz icon Regis Philbin's announcement Tuesday that he'll leave his daily talk show after 28 years may have caught viewers off guard, but people in the television biz have been telling me for a year now that Regis has been looking to hang it up. And with him retiring so soon (late summer), sources close to Kelly tell me that producers are open to making an unconventional choice with his replacement.
"This is not a sudden decision," insiders tell me. "Regis has been talking about his exit from the show he loves for a long time. You just don't get out of bed one morning and decide to quit a job after 28 years. A lot of deep thought went into this."
And now that Regis, 79, has made his intentions known, the search for a replacement has officially begun. One thing's for sure, they'll have to work fast.
"The 'Live' franchise will continue, and in the coming months Disney-ABC Television Group will name a new co-host to join the talented and captivating Kelly Ripa," a statement from ABC Television reveals.
I was at ABC studios in New York just hours after Regis made his announcement and an executive that spoke on the condition of anonymity told me that producers have been "unofficially testing" out possible replacements for a while, but that they haven't necessarily found Kelly's partner yet.
"The show can definitely survive without Regis if they find Kelly the right new co-host," an ABC exec tells me. "For some time they have been unofficially testing out potential replacements on the show. Neil Patrick Harris, Anderson Cooper and even Kelly's husband, Mark, have filled in; yet no one was as good as Regis."
Anyone who has seen the current incarnation of 'Live' knows that Regis and Kelly have always had more of father-daughter type of relationship, and Bill Carroll, Katz Television Group's VP and director of programming, believes those days are long gone now.
"I would anticipate that they would likely go with someone who is closer in age to her with the idea that they are going to do it for another 10 years or so," he tells PopEater. "I would think they would look for someone with the type of longevity she might have."
Going one step further, all this speculation has led some producers to once again argue that trying to find a man to replace Regis may be impossible, and that the only option is to find another woman.
"The incredible success that the 'Today' show is having with Kathie Lee and Hoda is a model everyone is trying to copy," a friend of Kelly's tells me. "Kelly has a ton of girlfriends and is totally open to the idea of sitting next to a woman every morning. Plus, this way you are not trying to replace a legend but rather take the show in a different direction."
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