Philbin had clinched star status in the world of daytime TV when, a decade ago, he conquered prime time as host of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire," which resurrected the big-money quiz shows that had largely been extinct for 30 years. It became a ratings sensation for ABC. He made "Is that your final answer?" a national catch phrase.
As Philbin prepares to exit "Live!" it remains strong, averaging about 4 million viewers daily. It's the No. 2-rated daily talk show after "Oprah Winfrey."
His leave-taking will occur not long after Winfrey ends her syndicated show to concentrate on her new cable network. A Philbin contemporary in the broadcasting world, 77-year-old Larry King, retired from his prime-time CNN talk show last month.
Meanwhile, Philbin continues to add to his record for most hours logged (15,662, as certified by Guinness World Records back in 2006).
"EV-ry DAY, you see the RECord SHATtered, pal!" Philbin boomed during an interview with The Associated Press three years ago, his rhythmic rant at full rev. "One more hour!"
On that occasion, he was asked how much longer he expected to keep doing "Live!" He answered that he still enjoyed doing it, that he was "very happy."
"I guess there's gonna have to be a sign somewhere along the way telling me enough's enough," he said then.
It's unclear if a particular sign — apart from Philbin's 80th birthday this August — led to Tuesday's bombshell. But it is already clear that, whoever is tapped to take his seat beside Ripa, no one can replace him.
Disney-ABC Domestic Television distributes "Live! With Regis and Kelly."
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