Remembering Regis Philbin: Where he started

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Regis Philbin

Q: I was fascinated recently to see clips of the work the late Regis Philbin did. What was his very first job in television? — Sam Russell, via e-mail

A: If you include his off-air work, that would have been his being a page for NBC’s “Tonight Show” in New York in the mid-1950s, during the period when Steve Allen hosted its original incarnation. (It’s been noted that typically, whenever Philbin exited an elevator at a TV network, he’d walk over to a page to say, “Hello.” Philbin then became a talk-show writer in Los Angeles and filled in for a night when the host — who had a reputation for drinking — never arrived.

Philbin’s first television job proper was (and they really must have deliberated over this title) “The Regis Philbin Show,” which aired only locally in San Diego in the early 1960s to start with. After several years, it got a national syndicator, but was canceled after only a year of its wider reach.

Another shot at a nationwide stage came Philbin’s way when he was hired as the announcer on Joey Bishop’s ABC late-night show in the late ‘60s. When it was canceled, Bishop suddenly walked off, and it was left to Philbin to finish it. The latter man then did a mix of local and national talk-show-hosting gigs until his New York-based “Morning Show” caught fire when he was teamed with Kathie Lee Johnson (later Gifford), it got national syndication as the renamed “Live! With Regis and Kathie Lee,” and the rest is genuine TV history.

Sylvester Stallone

Q: I watched USA Network’s marathon of the series “Las Vegas,” and I was surprised to see Sylvester Stallone in it. How many episodes did he do? — Ian Powell, via e-mail

A: Two, and though he only had a few scenes, his presence loomed large … as with anything Stallone does. Nominally, his character was “Frank the Repairman,” but the show had a good time winking at Stallone’s massive fame — as when the characters Danny and Mike (played by Josh Duhamel and James Lesure) passed by him, then did double takes with facial expressions that clearly said, “Wasn’t that … ?”.

Q: I like the specials titled “The Greatest #AtHome Videos.” Will they become a regular series? — Diane Collins, Buffalo, N.Y.

A: They would seem to be headed in that direction, though CBS hadn’t made an official call on that when this column was written. The network was pleased enough with the performance of the first special last May to order not just one more, but four — which concluded their weekly run recently.

The show certainly is cost-effective, since it largely involves compiling videos that people have shot while in quarantine … and there sure are enough of them these days. Also, it helps CBS to have Cedric the Entertainer on board as the host and an executive producer, since his presence is a subliminal advertisement for his sitcom “The Neighborhood,” which is headed toward its third season on the network.

Q: I don’t have Spectrum for cable service, so I wasn’t able to see “L.A.’s Finest,” but I’m happy that Fox will have it. When does it start there? — Dan Leslie, Fair Oaks, Calif.

A: The first season of the Jessica Alba-Gabrielle Union police drama is slated to make its Fox debut Sept. 21, and that date should hold, since the episodes have long been completed — confirmed by the availability they’ve had on Spectrum for well over a year.

In that On Demand form, though, the show wasn’t subject to broadcast standards and practices … so it’s likely that it’ll go through some editing to conform to those requirements for Fox’s purposes, and also to leave room for ads that the series hasn’t contained on Spectrum.

Q: I was impressed that Turner Classic Movies had a “TCM Remembers” featurette on Olivia de Havilland very shortly after her death. How do they do those so quickly? — Sarah Ford, Wheeling, W/ Va.

A: As with TV-news obituaries on older celebrities, they’re often prepared in advance so that they’re ready to use when the sad time for it comes. Given how many veteran actors TCM features regularly, we’d assume that’s an ongoing initiative behind the scenes at the channel.

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Jay Bobbin

Jay Bobbin

Jay Bobbin has decades of experience covering the television and movie businesses, winning Tribune Media Services’ Crown Jewel Award in 2008 for his performance in the company. Over those many years of interviewing and writing, he has spoken with everyone from Robert De Niro and John Travolta to Paul McCartney and Tony Bennett … from Meryl Streep and Julie Andrews to Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood.

jbobbin has 2549 posts and counting.See all posts by jbobbin

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Aug 19, 2020 4:34 pm

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