Yes, today marked host Regis Philbin’s farewell telecast after 28 seasons of his fun, freewheeling morning show — it’ll continue as Live! With Kelly until a permanent cohost is found — and while the hour was perhaps less emotionally compelling than I’d expected, it had three particularly memorable moments:
* Regis’ final walk to the stage, set to a wistful piano tune, reached its crescendo with a stop at Kelly’s dressing room, where the duo linked hands and exchaned “I love yous.” “Every morning, I’ll think of this,” said Regis, “a few minutes before nine.” Interestingly, it was this backstage interlude where Regis let down his guard and allowed himself to get a little sentimental. Once he set foot in front of an all-star audience that included Donald Trump, Kathie Lee Gifford, Katie Couric, Diane Sawyer, Judge Judy, and Tony Danza (just to name a few), his guard went up, and Reege often looked more disconcerted than moved by all the fuss being made over his exit.
* Kelly, for her part, gave a lovely tribute that she said went against the grain of everything Regis ever taught her — since she delivered it with pre-written notes clutched in her hand. Kelly spoke of the 43 steps she’s walked every morning with Regis for the last 11 years — “except when you have off on Friday, and Friday-Monday in the summer” — and how he always manages to make her feel like “a million bucks.” Moreso than any of the pre-taped tribute and montages, Ripa cut to the heart of what’s made Regis’ TV run special: He appeals to all walks of viewers — folks battling cancer, nursing mothers who’ve been up all night, anxious kids home from school — and makes them feel better. “May the next 43 steps fill you with the joy you filled all of us with,” said Kelly, eyes welling up with tears.
* I also got a huge kick out of the montage of celebrities imitating Regis. Jimmy Fallon’s impression was undoubtedly the most spot-on and the funniest, but Ben Affleck’s gibberish barking and Amy Poehler’s surprisingly close approximation were delightful, too.
Less successful were a pair of musical tributes — one featuring viewers holding up cards with the words “you,” “make,” “me,” “smile” set to the tune of Uncle Kracker’s “Smile” and one with the cast of Rent offering a customized version of “Seasons of Love” that felt like it lasted 995,600 minutes and had Regis’ eyes wandering to the nearest exit sign.
We also got Regis making good on a promise to Kelly that he and his wife Joy would share an embarassing story from his honeymoon on his final day of work. Turns out Reege surprised his bride on a dark, rainy drive from their wedding reception by announcing “I have no reservations” and pulling into a Du-par’s restaurant where the couple ordered glasses of wine in front of a fireplace. Nothing too shocking or over-the-top, just the kind of amusing slice-of-life anecdote that Regis has been delivering for 28 seasons. Which, when you think about it, was exactly the kind of tale you’d want him to tell on his final day.
What did you think of Regis’ final Live! telecast. Share your thoughts — and your favorite Regis memories — in the comments.