Picks and Pans Review: Live with Regis & Kathie Lee
Like oysters, blue cheese and rubber-soled shoes, Regis Philbin grew on me. Regis has been around for a long time. He was the announcer on the flop Joey Bishop Show, the star of his own unhit NBC show in 1981, the host of a Lifetime series and most recently the butt of David Letterman jokes. Now his a.m. New York show is going national, so you too, America, can share what we prisoners of Gotham have had for a while: a pleasant way to wake up. I'll be honest. I started watching the show not by choice but by force; my only real alternative was Geraldo. But to my surprise, I actually started to like Regis. You can't take him at face value. He may seem like a game-show host with no prizes, like Donald O'Connor without the mule. Sure he's pleasant and charming but don't hold that against him. He's also witty, if harmlessly so. He can insult guests and get away with it. He can talk about mundane frustrations in his own life, survive insipid cooking lessons (8 million ways to fix pasta) or interview Hula Hoop champions and not put us back to sleep. His co-host is another matter. Kathie Lee Gifford was a co-star on Hee Haw Honeys, a co-host of the Miss America Pageant and most recently a co-anchor of ABC's winter Olympic wrap-ups with her lovey-dovey hubby, sportscaster Frank Gifford. Kathie Lee tries to be sooo perfect, a credit to her alma mater (Oral Roberts U.). If she had a twin, she'd be on one of those Doublemint gum commercials. She talks about her interior decoration, her country home and her parties as if we all had lives like hers. She cannot face anything approximating reality without putting on her oh-yucky! face and making a bit of a fool of herself. In a recent segment on panhandlers, for instance, Kathie Lee said, "I don't want to pay for someone else's vacation. If they're desperate and they're dying and they're hungry, yeah...." Mother Teresa, she ain't. Madonna, she ain't. But an amazing thing is happening: Even Kathie Lee is growing on me. Maybe I'm not awake when I'm watching her. Or maybe I'm contracting Jeffrey Lyonitis, the dread disease that strikes critics and makes them like everything they see. Or maybe Regis is making me like her. Yes, he can make you like his show in spite of yourself. Just as Bob Costas is well suited to his hour, Regis is perfectly suited to his. He's easy to take in the morning and that's not easy to be.