MIAMI BEACH, Fla. — One thing Regis Philbin and Mary Hart want to make clear as they come to the end of long runs on Live With Regis and Kelly and Entertainment Tonight: They are making a change, not going away.
“Regis doesn’t want to use the R word — retirement — and neither do I,” Hart said during a one-on-one conversation at NATPE on Wednesday. That followed a similar session with Philbin moments earlier.
“Retirement is not in the cards,” she added. “I want to do something different. It may not be on television. I might be tackling a different subject matter.”
In fact, Tuesday night, when Hart and Philbin were among the honorees at the Brandon Tartikoff Legacy Awards, the two had a conversation about working together — as they had in 1981 on a short-lived NBC talk show.
Philbin said Hart asked him about it. Hart said it was Philbin who brought it up, but that it was just conversation at this point. Both said they want to take some time after they finish their current jobs this year to think about the future.
Philbin, who holds the Guinness Book record for the most hours of live TV programming by an individual, said he doesn’t think he will do another daily show, although he won’t rule anything out. He said doing it every day “just got to be a grind.”
Philbin said Tuesday night that another Legacy honoree, Dick Ebersole, head of NBC Universal Sports and Olympics, told him that Philbin should be the network’s sideline reporter on NBC coverage of Notre Dame football. Regis, a famed alumni, said he yelled, “I’d love that!” But the chances of him actually doing it are slim.
So what does Philbin want to do? “Regis wants to relax a little bit,” he said.
Regis told THR that he hasn’t decided if he will end his run on the talk show at the end of August or in November. He said ABC would like him to finish during November sweeps.
Hart is focused on working for ET through May 25. She said she will be going to England for a full week of shows around the royal wedding. Then she will figure out what is next.
“I am not looking forward to that last day,” she said. “I’m dreading it. How do you say good-bye to an audience and to my family at ET? That will be very sad.”
Asked about opportunities she turned down over the years, Hart recalled Merv Griffin asking her if she would moonlight on a second job as the letter-turner on Wheel of Fortune as it was about to debut. She declined.
She also turned down the chance to be the anchor of the TV version of USA Today when the newspaper launched both in print and on TV. The paper lasted but the show did not, so Hart was happy to have passed on that opportunity.
She said that what has been most satisfying is that in the early days, ET was seen as “fluff” because it was all entertainment news. Since then, the show has done a lot of intense journalism; she mentioned 9/11 and doing a show the day after the Northridge Earthquake in 1994.
Hart said ET paved the way not only for numerous competitors on broadcast and cable but also for similar fare on morning shows, newsmagazines and elsewhere.
“I have worried it might be too pervasive,” she said. “And I may hate the competition. But I actually think it has made us a better show.”