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Regis Goes Ma’ambo, ‘Idol’ Goes Nice

Apr 30, 2007  •  Post A Comment

What a relief last week was in television terms. And not just because the horrors subsided to a near-normal level, which meant reality was easier to deal with or to tune out without feeling like Citizen Shirk.

It felt safe-fun, even-to turn on the TV nearly any time of the day or night.

Regis Philbin returned to “Live With Regis and Kelly” in fine fettle and funny-as-ever form, while “American Idol: Idol Gives Back” took feel-good TV to new heights.

Mr. Philbin’s tale of his heart bypass surgery and six weeks of recuperation was pure Reege: four parts comedic curmudgeon, one part hypochondriacal tough guy, two parts tour guide and ringmaster. It was a great show that made clear to the studio audience how genuine the affection is between him and co-host Kelly Ripa; how easily he and guest David Letterman toss the role of straight man back and forth when they are together; and how low-tech executive producer Michael Gelman’s confetti craving is.

For a home version, stuff confetti into a paper towel tube, hold tube by one end and, with a flick of the wrist, flick the tube in the direction of the co-hosts you want to annoy with shiny, flying paper. It is, as Martha Stewart would say, a good thing.

Not so good: Being called “ma’am” by Mr. Philbin, who at 76 years old is a full (ahem) years older than The Insider. So what if his (and Mr. Letterman’s) heart surgeons did tell Mr. Philbin he has the heart of a 19-year-old and The Insider hasn’t had the heart of a 19-year-old since she was 12.

Mr. Philbin’s nicknames tend to stick. So The Insider could not let “Ma’am” go unchallenged.

After those suck-uppers from “Extra” presented Mr. Philbin with a basket full of heart-related gifts (with an “Extra” T-shirt for Ms. Ripa), he looked at The Insider and barked: “What about The Insider? Did The Insider bring anything?”

“My Ma’amly presence,” The Insider barked back.

Take that, Mr. I Watched “American Idol” While I Was Recuperating and Liked Sanjaya.

That would be the same Sanjaya who clearly got a kick out of being a running gag on “Idol Gives Back” the night before.

The Insider, who can take or leave Sanjaya and star-filled, made-for-TV fund-raisers, found herself feeling unexpectedly charmed and touched by both.

“Idol” did itself proud, from the comic cameos (especially Jack Black’s tenaciously D-liteful rendition of “Touched by a Rose”) and the heartwarming musical moments (Who didn’t want to adopt each member of the African children’s chorus singing with Josh Groban?) to the cheesy but mind-boggling “duet” of Celine Dion and the late (and skinny) Elvis Presley.

Brah. Vo. Ree. Gis. And “I. Dol.”