NBC’s “Today” show made the most of a visit from Regis Philbin Wednesday morning — essentially producing a revival of the old “Live with Regis and Kathie Lee” show, right down to the theme music, “host chat” and studio audience.
The occasion was an on-air reunion of the two former talk-show co-hosts — the first time Regis, 80, and Kathie Lee Gifford, 58, have worked as co-hosts since she left their show 12 years ago. Regis, of course, left the show last November, while Kathie Lee has been co-hosting the fourth hour of “Today” with Hoda Kotb.
On “Today,” Regis was brought on as guest-host for a day, sitting in for Hoda, who was unfortunately attending a memorial service for a friend (according to Kathie Lee).
Regis and Kathie Lee had previously worked together for 15 years, day in and day out, discussing what they’d done the previous evening, sharing stories about their families, talking about stories in the news (which on Wednesday included Alec Baldwin’s altercation with a photographer) and generally needling each other harmlessly. Wednesday on “The Today Show,” the chemistry was still very much in evidence, particularly in the opening “host-chat” segment.
Regis showed a clip from his recent guest-starring appearance with Betty White and Valerie Bertinelli on “Hot in Cleveland.” And Kathie Lee sipped red wine because it was, after all, “Wines-day Wednesday,” as she pointed out.
They also took softball questions from the studio audience — one of which had to do with how they maintain their personal friendship (answer: they socialize with their spouses occasionally).
And the two also conducted a trivia contest, with Kathie Lee staying in the studio, while Regis accosted midtown tourists and Rockefeller Plaza visitors at the NBC Studio Store nearby, and asked them trivia questions about famous show-business duos.
Before they got together to co-host the 10-11 a.m. hour (9-10c), Regis and Kathie Lee arrived early at the “Today” show studios for a sitdown interview with Matt Lauer.
Well, you would have thought Elvis himself was returning from the dead, judging from all the fanfare surrounding Regis’ arrival.
As you’ll see in the clip, below, the Lauer interview was preceded by Regis’ “big” arrival by limo on West 48th Street, outside of the “Today” show’s midtown Manhattan studios, where he was greeted by Kathie Lee and a smattering of passersby. Meanwhile, off-camera, Lauer described the action as if he was announcing a bases-loaded situation in the bottom of the ninth.
On the scene, though, Kathie Lee was perhaps more accurate when she said, “It’s not exactly Bieber fever, but it’s nice.”
For his part, Regis pretended that he didn’t recognize Kathie Lee, and later he play-acted that he didn’t know Hoda’s name either — referring to her several times as “Coda” and “Poda,” and feigning confusion. Did it work as comedy? That’s a matter of personal taste, but for us, well, no.
In the studio, Matt’s first question was either meant to be funny or someone goofed in the writing of it. “Do you think, Kathie Lee, that [co-hosting a TV show again with Regis] would be like the human equivalent of riding a bike, even though you haven’t ridden him for 12 years?” Lauer asked her.
“What’s he talking about,” Regis pretended to whisper to Kathie Lee. “Is Matt into porn? What’s happening here?”
Well, chalk it all up to the challenges of live television. A few moments earlier, Kathie Lee had mentioned that she’d heard Regis had been tapped to host the annual Macy’s fireworks special on July Fourth on NBC. She referred to it as a “July Fourth parade,” but really, who else but us would notice such a thing?