Fifth Estater

Ready to Bring New Life to 'Live!'

With Regis’ exit, producer banks on experience to keep the show moving ahead 12/05/2011 12:01:00 AM Eastern

Michael Gelman

Title:

Executive producer, Live! With Kelly

Education:

University of Colorado, B.S. in journalism/ broadcast production management, minor in film and political science, 1983

Employment Highlights:

WABC-TV, The Morning Show, production assistant, 1983; segment producer, 1984

Lifetime Television, The Regis Philbin Show, producer, 1985

Hollywood Squares
, producer, 1986

WABC-TV, The Morning Show, executive producer, 1987

Live! With Regis
and Kathie Lee/ Kelly, executive producer, 1988-present

Personal:

b. Aug 4, 1961; wife, Laurie; children Misha, 10; Jamie, 7

It had become a routine for an average 5 million Americans
each weekday: sipping a cup of coffee as the witty banter
between the ageless Regis Philbin and charismatic Kelly Ripa
played out on local television stations across the country. That
routine would not have been the same (or even existed) were
it not for Michael Gelman, the long-standing and well-known
executive producer of Live! With Regis and Kelly.

Some just know him as Gelman, “the poor,
downtrodden producer,” as he says, of the
morning show, who Philbin and Ripa teased
mercilessly. It is not often that a producer appears
on-air on live television; it is a unique aspect
of Live! that has become a staple of its daily
production, and it’s a part Gelman plays well.
But the bumbling persona he “plays” on camera
is hardly representative of his actual talents.

Ripa, who has worked with Gelman the past
10 years, is the first to admit as much. “He is
equal parts executive producer, psychotherapist,
marriage counselor, nutritionist, circus
performer,” she says.

While Gelman is at the helm, Live!, nationally
syndicated since 1988, owes much of its
success to the charm of its hosts—Ripa and the
legendary, indefatigable Philbin, who departed
the show on Nov. 18 after 28 years.

“[Philbin] doesn’t have to ‘turn it on’ for the
camera because it’s Regis being Regis…and I
think I’ve done a great job, along with my entire
staff, at harnessing that,” Gelman says.

The departure of Philbin leaves Gelman the
undesirable task of finding a suitable replacement,
which has supplied the media much fodder
for speculation. Plenty of names—including
Ripa’s husband, Mark Consuelos; the ubiquitous
Ryan Seacrest; and Bravo’s Andy Cohen—have
surfaced, some seemingly out of thin air. And that
speculation provides free publicity for the show,
currently titled Live! Wth Kelly.

“Whoever had the best publicist was getting
their name in the paper the most,” Gelman
says, referencing the rumors that circulated
after Kathie Lee Gifford announced her departure
from Live! in 2000. “That doesn’t bother
me. I’m entertained by the fact that all these
people are being speculated about, and I think
it’s good for the show….All I’ll say is this: Kelly
Ripa was not on anyone’s list,” he says.

The formula to find a new cohost will be
the same as the one that found Ripa. Gelman
is bringing in several guest cohosts (beginning
with Jerry Seinfeld, Neil Patrick Harris and Jerry
O’Connell) before announcing a successor. This
time, however, the shoes are a bit bigger to fill.

Those shoes Gelman knows well. Besides
having worked with Philbin on Live! for 20-
plus years, Gelman produced The Regis Philbin
Show
, a primetime talk/variety series that aired
on Lifetime cable for one season. The enduring
friendship he has with Philbin is one that few
producers enjoy with their talent, as it is rare
for a producer—let alone much of the staff,
which Gelman says has been one of the most
stable staffs in live television—to remain with
the same show for many years.

“We’ve had an incredible relationship, where
sometimes he’s like my brother, and sometimes
he’s like my child. Losing Regis [on the show]
will be a big change for all of us,” Gelman says.

Fresh off his departure from Live!, Philbin
echoes the sentiment, although his perception
of being Gelman’s “child” is somewhat
reversed: “I’ve had a great time raising him all
these years. He’s finally turned into a great producer,”
he says.

That “great producer” first came to WABC-TV
as an intern for Good Morning New York, a local
morning show and Live!’s early predecessor.
When he returned to New York following graduation
from the University of Colorado’s School of
Journalism, Gelman snagged a job on The Morning
Show
—which had debuted in 1983 with Philbin
and Cyndy Garvey as hosts—as a staff production
assistant, then later associate producer.

A brief stint as New York producer for Hollywood
Squares
in 1986 preceded Gelman’s return
to WABC-TV, where he pitched himself as
the head producer for The Morning Show (which
was renamed Live! With Regis and Kathie Lee to
coincide with its national debut). Gelman, at 24,
became one of the youngest syndicated producers
after landing the job. (His daughters Jamie
and Misha may be too young to appreciate this
achievement, but at least they’re now old enough
to enjoy the real benefits of Dad’s career: meeting
idols such as Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift.)

Although serving as executive producer of a
show targeted at an older female demographic,
Gelman had, while studying broadcast production
management in Colorado in the early 1980s,
dabbled in adventure and sports television production.
Working as a cameraman, field producer
and editor for the U.S. Ski Association, Gelman
traveled around the country to cover events leading
up to the Winter Olympics. His interest in
rock climbing, skiing and other outdoor sports
would have been a good match for television production,
but his ambition led elsewhere.

“I would have loved living in Vail and shooting
ski races, but I was just really more ambitious and
didn’t feel like that was a good future,” he says.

Gelman’s decision to ditch fast-paced adventure
sports television production for the equally
fast-paced live morning show proved to be a
good one. And if his success in finding a replacement
for Kathie Lee is any indication of
his ability to sustain the show for another 24
seasons without one of its iconic hosts, then
Live! is in good—and plenty full—hands.

E-mail comments to
lindsay.rubino@gmail.com and follow her
on Twitter: @LindsayRubino

Michael Gelman

Title:

Executive producer, Live! With Kelly

Education:

University of Colorado, B.S. in journalism/ broadcast production management, minor in film and political science, 1983

Employment Highlights:

WABC-TV, The Morning Show, production assistant, 1983; segment producer, 1984

Lifetime Television, The Regis Philbin Show, producer, 1985

Hollywood Squares
, producer, 1986

WABC-TV, The Morning Show, executive producer, 1987

Live! With Regis
and Kathie Lee/ Kelly, executive producer, 1988-present

Personal:

b. Aug 4, 1961; wife, Laurie; children Misha, 10; Jamie, 7

 

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