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Live and Well

9/26/2004 08:00:00 PM Eastern

Sometimes, experience pays. Beginning its 17th season, Buena Vista's Live With Regis and Kelly came out of the gate as strong as ever. The show opened with a 3.2 rating, up 14% from the prior week and even with last year.

"We continue to push the boundaries of what is already a high standard of performance," says Lloyd Komesar, executive vice president of strategic research for Buena Vista Television. The ratings reflect his optimism. Live's first two days delivered a 4.1 rating/12 share in the metered markets, on par with its lead-in but up 5% from last year's premiere. That jives with Live's upwardtrend: The show ended last season up 9% in households and a whopping 24% in women 18-49 compared with five years ago. By comparison, King World's Oprah Winfrey Showwas up 6% in households for the same period.

To reach women, Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry appeared on Live last week, and he clicked, drawing a 4.0/14 in the metered markets, up 3% from its lead-in time-period average and the prior week. Kerry was even more appreciated in Philadelphia and San Francisco, where he pulled a 7.3/23 and a 5.6/23, respectively.

Although Kerry is the first political candidate to grace Regis and Kelly's stage this election, First Lady Laura Bush has plans to appear soon, and President George W. Bush is also expected. "It's a different interview when we have politicians on," says executive producer Michael Gelman. "We're not 60 Minutes or Nightline. We try to get to know them as people."

Last Friday, the show had fun with the second-annual running of the Rellys, an awards show that spoofs the fact that Live has been Emmy-nominated many times as Outstanding Talk Show but, like All My Children's Susan Lucci, never wins. (Regis and Kelly can take heart: Lucci won in 1999 after 19 nominations.) The Rellys also serve as a fun look back at the prior year, with many celebrities taking part, including Ray Romano, Paris Hilton, Alec Baldwin and Debra Messing.

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