'Who wants to be a Millionaire' host Regis Philbin passes on at the age of 88

Amitabh Bachchan had once been on Regis Philbin’s morning show as a guest

MUMBAI: Life is strange and ironical. Even as Amitabh Bachchan, the Indian superstar and host of Kaun Banega Crorepati (the Indian adaptation of Who Wants to be a Millionaire), is fighting the SARS Cov2 virus in a Mumbai hospital, Regis Philbin, the host for many years of the American original, passed away on late Friday night in the US. He was all of 88.

For those who don’t know, Philbin was associated with television for nearly six decades. His was a struggle to rise to the pinnacles that he finally did. In the beginning, he was a stagehand or spot boy as they are called in India. He then moved on to become a news writer-cum-sportscaster for some years in the sixties, hosted his own show on local television, moved onto acting,  then became part of comic Joey Bishop’s entourage before getting the full limelight later in his life.

It was in 1988 that he burst out on the national scene on ABC with the talk show Live! With Regis and Kathie Lee that followed The Morning Show which he hosted alone between 19833 and 1988. His partnership with Kathie Lee Gifford ran for 12 years until 2000 when he once again got his own routine Live with Regis between 2000 and 2001. After that followed a decade of a jointly presenting with Kelly Ripa until 2011.

In 1999, he was called to additionally host Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, which became a major hit in the US, drawing an audience of 30 million – a record for a game show. He hosted it until 2002, when it started seeing a drop in viewership and ratings, coming back for specials later over the next 10 years. Bachchan had met the host of the UK original Chris Tarrant on taking up the assignment and had watched Regis in 2000 when Star India acquired the rights to remake it in India. In fact, Bachchan was also a guest on the Regis Philbin Morning Show when he was on a concert tour in the US.

In between his television assignments, Philbin acted in more than 25 films.

Philbin was known to ad-lib, write his own material throughout his career. He had a particular sense of humour which worked well with baby boomers in America.

Industry showered him with awards galore: he was the recipient of daytime Emmys for Live! With Regis and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire in 2001. A lifetime achievement award followed in 2008 and then he got another Emmy for Live! With Regis and Kelly in 2011. For his contribution to television, he got inducted into the Television Hall of Fame in 2006.

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