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Kelly Ripa: Show with Regis Philbin was 'very accidental'

By Jay Bobbin
Zap2it

Kelly Ripa knows her time with Regis Philbin is getting ever shorter.

Philbin departs "Live! With Regis and Kelly" on Friday, Nov. 18, then the search for Ripa's new partner will begin in earnest as she's joined by various people on the air. She landed her spot on the syndicated weekday talk show in much the same way 10 years ago, after Kathie Lee Gifford left.

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While she's not looking forward to Philbin's goodbye, Ripa is readying herself for the consequent process. "They were very good to me here," she tells Zap2it, "in keeping me from knowing that I was ever in the running for anything. I really was filling in for [fellow daytime-soap veteran] Linda Dano, who I guess was auditioning. They never used the word 'audition,' and they never said, 'You're a contender.' It was more, 'Linda Dano can't make it. Can you get over here?'

"I worked at 'All My Children,' which was shot right down the street, and I was also a frequent guest on the show. Whenever the 'real' celebrities canceled, they would have me come and fill in at the last minute, so they knew I could talk. And I had a relationship with everyone here."

Ripa recalls that what ultimately became her co-host tryout "wasn't just a low-stakes situation, it was a no-stakes situation, so I felt no pressure ... other than trying not to use foul language on live TV. I seriously thought they were having me back just because I was conveniently located to the studio. It was all very accidental."

For what will be titled "Live! With Kelly" in the interim, Executive Producer Michael Gelman -- famously known simply as "Gelman" on the show -- says audience reaction will be a big barometer in the selection of the new co-host. From her own experience, Ripa has no doubt that will be the case.

"The audience responded to me, for whatever reason," she reflects, "and I will be forever grateful. As I've always said, I wish I could clean the house of everyone who's responsible for me getting this job.