In 2011, a number of shows experienced high-profile exits which changed the nature of the program. They are all missed, but how have their replacements been doing?
Simon Cowell, "American Idol"
Back when it was announced that Simon Cowell was leaving "American Idol," few viewers could imagine the show without him. The acerbic British judge always told the unvarnished truth, disillusioning wannabes and finalists, as well. Just as we feared, "Idol" without Cowell became a little too nice. The judges were critical during the audition process, but then newcomers Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez confined themselves to effusive praise, leaving Randy Jackson, the only returning judge, in the position of being the "meanie." You could tell Jackson missed just sitting back and welcoming singers to his "Dog Pound."
Meantime, Cowell moved on to "The X Factor," where he spent much of the first season engaging in a tiresome ego competition with his fellow judges. Simon, break up with " The X Factor " and come back to your ex; "Idol" needs you.
Steve Carell, "The Office"
Nobody can say we weren't warned about Steve Carell's departure from "The Office," which made headlines long before his character, Michael Scott, exited the Dunder-Mifflin offices. The final episodes of the previous season saw the office staff interviewing for a replacement, with many famous comedians applying, including Ricky Gervais, who played the office manager on the British series that spawned the U.S. version.
Much to many people's surprise, one of the existing cast members was promoted, Andy Bernard (played by Ed Helms). Andy is a music geek whose idea of motivating the team is to force them into a group sing of the Semisonic song "Closing Time" each day at 5. James Spader also joined the cast as the new CEO of Mifflin Sabre. He makes occasional appearances but has so far been a charismatic cipher.
Andy is meek where Michael was confident. While he's not as embarrassing in public speaking situations, he's also far less interesting.
Regis Philbin, "Live with Regis & Kelly"
After decades of helping Americans get the morning started, Regis Philbin downed his last cup of coffee and abandoned his chair. He left the show to co-host Kelly Ripa. A replacement (if one is planned) has yet to be announced, although several guest co-hosts have filled in since Philbin's last show on November 18.
While it's too soon to say what Philbin's absence will mean to the show, the 2011 Christmas special might be some indication. It included a number by Voca People, the New York a capella group that, apparently taking their cue from the Blue Man Group, wear white head to toe and paint their faces white, as well. Their odd appearance wasn't the strangest part of the performance: Ripa joined them, also in face paint. It was the sort of thing that would have made "Reeg" harrumph.
The big question is will Philbin stay retired? Or, like his first co-host, Kathie Lee Gifford, will he find a new morning gig? Only time will tell.