'Live! with Kelly': Who has been the best guest co-host so far?

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Could Rob Lowe replace Regis Philbin?

That’s the same question reportedly swirling around the heads of some ABC execs at this very moment, after Lowe today wrapped a largely enjoyable two-day stint at the talk show.

As I look back at the co-hosts that have sat at the table in the past few weeks, I’m torn on which host has best filled the Regis-sized void in my morning show-loving heart. (He’s not a large man, so it’s worth clarifying that the proverbial void is larger than you might think.)

You see, it takes a special host to handle the Ripa. Yes, THE Ripa. She’s a lot of personality, and if ever set loose on her own, I’m pretty sure she’d conduct every interview while doing her terrible Cher impression. The special thing about Regis was that after so many years, he knew it all. He knew how to gracefully stop Kelly when she tried to drag out a joke. He knew when it was time to move onto a new topic during host chat. And — I only realized this after seeing a few guest hosts fail miserably at it — they both had an unspoken rhythm and equality about their exchanges. No one dominated. No one fell into the background. While Regis was on the show, I couldn’t have picked these things out quite like I can now. But in the absence of them, suddenly, they seem so important.

A veteran TV producer could have told you that those things were what made them a special duo, but as a viewer, I almost feel like we’re not supposed to know these things. We’re supposed to be too busy watching to pick it apart. Lately, I’ve found myself dissecting the show every morning, which tells me we need a new co-host soon.

But who?

Kelly’s first guest co-host was Jerry Seinfeld. And though he’s spent years commanding the stage as a veteran standup, I think that may have been a detriment to his co-hosting abilities. Jerry is a headliner, the main attraction, the center of attention — on stage. This is morning TV. It was like taking a baseball mitt to a football game.

Since then, a few people have climbed the incredibly tall-looking chairs and sat beside Kelly. Husband Mark Consuelos has taken more than a few shifts, Neil Patrick Harris, Jerry O’Connell, Derek Hough, Jonah Hill, Josh Groban, Taye Diggs, Kevin Jonas, Bryant Gumbel, Michael BublĂ©, David Duchovny, and even Jim Parsons have all stopped by. But who came out on top? Here’s my top 5!

1. Neil Patrick Harris — If we’re talking chemistry, we have to mention the time Harris spent next to Kelly. The fact that they’re friends in real life (and spent Thanksgiving together!) not only helped the flow of chatter, but turned up the fun-factor of the show to levels it hadn’t been in a long time.

2. Rob Lowe — I’ll forgive that he sort of copped out on doing Zumba (-5 points on participation) and instead give the actor a lot of credit for his surprisingly solid interviewing skills. And he’s Rob Lowe.

3. Jerry O’Connell — Even before Regis left the show, I enjoyed the days when O’Connell would guest because the family man’s candid talk about raising his little girls melded well with Kelly’s family-oriented anecdotes. Also, the fact that he’d done it many times before probably helped him feel more at home than some first timers.

4. Taye Diggs — He was a good sport, laughed, danced… and let’s be honest, the camera loves this man.

5. Michael BublĂ© — Sorry, Groban, this crooner came out on top in my book merely for impersonating his Argentian wife. To host, you gotta go there!

Honorable mention: Mark Consuelos. It’s not easy being the substitute, but he pulls it off well. But he escapes the top five because when I want to hear and see family drama, I stick to scripted fare.

Okay, readers, your turn. Who has been your favorite guest co-host? And who would you like to stick around (in a perfect world where none of them have TV shows and careers to worry about)?


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