Regis to return with Letterman as first guest

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Veteran TV host Regis Philbin will return to his morning talk show Thursday, six weeks after heart surgery, and his good pal from late-night television, David Letterman, will help welcome him back.

Philbin, 75, last appeared with cohost Kelly Ripa on their syndicated program Live With Regis and Kelly on March 12, the day he revealed on the air that he would undergo open-heart surgery to remove a buildup of plaque in some arteries.

The triple-bypass operation was performed two days later, and Philbin was given the go-ahead to return to work this week, his spokeswoman said Tuesday. He is expected to resume his normal routine of taping four shows weekly starting next week.

Ripa, who was joined by various guest hosts during Philbin's recuperation, announced this week that their first guest for Philbin's first day back would be Letterman, a close friend and fellow veteran of heart surgery.

Philbin filled in for Letterman on the CBS Late Show and was Letterman's first guest when Letterman returned to work following his own quadruple bypass in 2000. Letterman has likewise appeared on Live several times, most recently in November 2004.

Philbin has been a national daytime TV fixture since 1989, when he began cohosting Live With Regis and Kathie Lee, which became Live With Regis and Kelly after Ripa took Kathie Lee Gifford's place as his on-air partner in 2001.

He also hosted the ABC smash hit Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, which debuted in the summer of 1999 and helped usher in a new wave of game shows and reality series to American television.

Last summer, Philbin returned to prime time to host NBC's showbiz competition America's Got Talent.

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