Ever wanted to attend a taping of Live with Regis and Kelly? Host Regis Philbin has been crossing the street from his Central Park West apartment and shooting Live out of New York's WABC since the series began as a local morning show in 1983. It went national in 1988 (with then co-host Katie Lee Gifford) and is still one of the most popular daytime shows on network television. Except for a poster outside for the upcoming ABC series No Ordinary Family, WABC looks like a pretty ordinary office building. There's a small gift counter in the ground floor lobby as well as a plaque on the wall honouring Donald DiFranco, WABC's transmitter maintenance engineer who died in the 9/11 attacks; the WABC tower was on top of the World Trade Center (it's now on top of the Empire State Building).
ABC Disney TV publicist Barbara Warren--a friendly voice on the phone for years--gave me a short walking tour of the studio before the taping. Live! shares studio space with the New York ABC local news and every day, the news sets have to be swung under the lights once the Live! set is struck.
The studio audience seats about 150 and the stands are sharply raked, offering excellent viewing. The guests at the show I attended last Thursday included Jennifer Aniston and Kyle Maclachlan, so folks were literally lined up outside the studio and right down the block by 8 a.m.
An hour of Live! races by in what seems like 10 minutes. Executive producer Michael Gelman does the warm up himself, instructing the audience that clapping faster sounds louder. You'd have to clap loud, I'm thinking, to be heard over the pumpkin-coloured set, which doesn't look as garish on TV.
With five cameras on the floor, the show begins and Philbin's contest-winning co-host (Kristin Cruz from LA radio station KOST) took their places behind the desk. Fully recovered from hip replacement surgery, Philbin is as nimble as ever, steering his co-host in and out of topics like a tug in the Hudson River. He really did a wonderful job making her feel at home and welcome on the set and getting the studio audience on her side.
During the commercial breaks, Philbin works the crowd, venturing into the stands to shake hands. There are quite a few visitors from eastern Canada and Philbin is still feeling the love form his visit to P.E.I. earlier this summer.
Aniston's gets three segments and turns on the star power. At one point, she casually drops the "R" word while describing herself as an imbecile; they'll bleep that out later, I think, until I remember that the show is called Live! for a reason. A fan yells out during a break that she is Aniston's No. 1 fan. The former Friends star does that thing when she clutches her heart and looks moved to tears while remaining glued to her director's chair.
|Philbin greets visitor from Lenscrafters|
The taping turns into a party as giant beach balls are volleyed from the back of the stage and bounced around the bleachers. Ringleader Gelman keeps the mayhem moving. Philbin remains unflappable, working just another day at the office.
Afterwards, Warren steers me backstage for a meet and greet with Reege. Having blown a photo op earlier in the week with Donald Trump, I'm relieved when a Disney shooter arrives to record the moment. Warren apologises later when it turns out the main shot didn't turn out, but a side shot did. Feel free to provide the caption in the comments.
To get tickets to a taping, and it is heartily recomended, follow this link. Be advised you could face a 12 month wait, although there is a standby line for those who feel lucky.