Most daytime talk shows settle into idle chattiness or melodramatic muckraking, and either way, even when they’re well done, they’re predictable. Live With Regis and Kathie Lee, however, is funny, energetic, and surprising, and most of the credit for this must go to that feisty little pit bull of popular culture, Regis Philbin.

The opening segment of each day finds Philbin fulminating: against the movie he saw the previous night, against the music his daughters are listening to, against some story in the morning’s newspaper — against, in short, anything and everything. But it’s entertaining anger. He’s laughing even as he works himself into a lather.

Older TV viewers must be shocked by Philbin’s recent fame, for before his daytime-talk employment, Philbin was at best a footnote in TV history: When Joey Bishop had his ’60s talk show, Philbin was his Ed McMahon. And before she joined Philbin as cohost, Kathie Lee Gifford was known primarily for her excessively chipper commercials for a sea-cruise company. But together, Regis and Kathie Lee are hot: Their New York-based show is one of the year’s biggest syndication success stories. Gifford was recently voted ”Most Beautiful Woman on TV” by a TV Guide phone-in poll (with hilarious shamelessness, she had campaigned for the honor over the air every day for a week). They are an agreeable mismatch: He’s always needling her about her endlessly changing hair (exploding frizz one day, farm-girr ponytail the next); she’s always kidding him about his advancing middle age.

If all this were merely playful, it would be insufferable, but there’s a tinge of nastiness in this duo’s sniping that keeps you wondering who’s hurting whose feelings more. The guests on the show-the usual parade of celebrities with something to plug-are almost irrelevant; one tunes into Live to listen to the edgy, amusing bickering. A

Live with Regis and Kathie Lee
  • TV Show