Bruce Fretts weighs in on the future of ''Live With Regis and Kathie Lee''

Is Kathie Lee’s decision a bargaining ploy?

This time, let’s hope she means it.

In the past, Kathie Lee Gifford has threatened to leave her syndicated daytime talk show, ”Live With Regis and Kathie Lee,” but it always seemed like a bargaining tactic. Now she’s declared on the air that she won’t be rejoining cohost Regis Philbin after her contract expires in July. And I say, Good riddance!

Does anybody think it’s coincidence that Kathie Lee chose to make her ”surprise” announcement the morning after Regis was reported to have been offered a $20 million deal to host ”Live” and ABC’s solid-gold game show, ”Who Wants to Be a Millionaire”? As anyone who’s watched ”Live” knows, Kathie Lee seems to think she should be the center of attention at all times, so what better way to grab back the spotlight than to quit?

Maybe Kathie Lee believes there will be an enormous public outcry begging her to reconsider. I doubt that’ll happen. I’m a huge Reege fan, but I stopped watching ”Live” because I found Kathie Lee so insufferable — and because I knew I could get my fill of Philbin on ”Millionaire.” I’m willing to wager that I’m not alone. While the quiz show’s numbers have skyrocketed, ratings for ”Live” are down approximately 10 percent this season.

Take a hint, Kathie Lee: We don’t like you — we really don’t like you. Your Broadway show, ”Putting It Together,” just closed, despite the fact that you were only filling in for Carol Burnett one night a week. And when you subbed for David Letterman last week, viewers tuned out in droves. (On a side note, why does ”Late Show” insist on booking lame-o guest hosts like Kathie Lee, Bill Cosby, and David Brenner? Why not hire someone who might actually be amusing, like, say, Jerry Seinfeld? He’s just sitting around New York City doing, well, nothing. Or would Dave feel threatened if the Nielsens went up on one of his nights off?)

Kathie Lee will probably try — and fail — to top Regis’ prime-time success with her own series. (May we suggest the title ”Who Wants to Marry a Million-Year-Old Man”?) Meanwhile, the search for Regis’ new cohost begins. My prediction: Monica Lewinsky. She can use her recent sidekick appearance on MTV’s ”The Tom Green Show” as her audition tape. And she’s the only woman in America with a bigger mouth than Kathie Lee.

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