Friday, November 18th, 2011 – TV legend Regis Philbin said goodbye to “LIVE” after 28 and a half years. Nearly 8.5 million viewers turned on their TVs at 9am to watch the emotional goodbye (which is still available online). And while that number is only a little more than half of the viewership total for the farewell show of the Queen of Daytime, Oprah, earlier that year (16.4 million), Regis was, without question, The King.
I attended the Nov. 11, 2011 “LIVE” show, with Adam Sandler as the main guest (promoting a little movie I happen to like called “Jack and Jill” – which features Regis in a cameo). Afterwards, I went met up with my old friend to wish him well and take a photo. He said to me, “This isn’t the last you’ll see of Regis”. And he was right.
Regis has lived-up to the promise he first made in Jan. 2011 – that he wasn’t “retiring” from television as most media outlets had assumed, but rather “moving on”. In the five years since leaving full-time daytime TV, Philbin has become a semi-regular co-host with Rachael Ray, along with appearances with Hoda Kotb and former “LIVE” companion Kathie Lee Gifford on “The Today Show”. He also appeared several times on the “Late Show with David Letterman”, including Dave’s second-to-last show, sporting the gray hair look. He also led the panel on Fox Sports 1’s “Crowd Goes Wild” from 2013-2014. On the “CGW” finale, Regis humorously said, “All my life I’ve wanted to host a sports show. And I’m still looking for it.”
Philbin, now 85, has also continued touring, both with wife, Joy, and comic icon, Don Rickles – including two shows this weekend in California. But these five years have also given Philbin plenty of time to spend with his family and close friends on both coasts. And while he’s talked about missing the opportunities to discuss various issues and news headlines and share his charming stories on the air every day, the grind of getting-up for a 9am show was simply becoming too much.
As for “LIVE”, Philbin revealed in 2015 that he hasn’t spoken to co-host Kelly Ripa since Nov. 18, 2011. And the show itself has gone through its ups and downs, most prominently the surprising entrance and controversial exit of “replacement”, Michael Strahan. In April, Philbin defended Ripa when it came to how ABC revealed the news of Strahan leaving: “They should have told her in the beginning.” A few days later, rumors swirled that Philbin might’ve returned to “LIVE” to guest host with Ripa for a few shows (or even on a permanent basis). ABC and Philbin himself (in a later remark on “Rachael Ray”) diffused them.
As much as I can understand how Regis wouldn’t have wanted to return to “LIVE” permanently, even one day back with Ripa would’ve been The TV Event of the Year. However, as has been the case for the past five years, to play-off one of his favorites, Mr. Frank Sinatra, Regis has done and continues to do everything since leaving “LIVE”…”His Way”.