Regis Philbin's return to Live with Regis and Kelly was a big shot in the arm for the Buena Vista syndicated talker in households and key demos.
According to Nielsen overnight numbers, for Philbin's first day back after open-heart surgery--he has been out for about six weeks--the household rating was up 52% over its prior four-week average to a 4.4 rating/16 share.
The demos spiked even more. Women 25-54 were up 60% from the prior four-week average to a 2.4/18. In New York, where the show originates, the numbers were off the charts, averaging a 6.8 rating/26 share at 9 a.m., the highest rating in the market for any show in daytime, including Oprah (5.1/14).
Live also grabbed the largest share of the audience of any show at any time on Thursday, including prime. Keeping with the medical theme, Philbin's repaired anatomy topped ABC's Grey's Anatomy, which led prime with a 20 share.
Regis' return was marked by a rare daytime appearance by David Letterman, returning an old favor. Regis was Letterman's first guest after the late-night host has his heart surgery in 2000. The entire surgical team also made an appearance.
The show has been rotating guest co-hosts with Kelly Ripa during Regis' absence, with Bryant Gumbel and Donald Trump the most recent fill-ins.