The new season of ABC's special celebrity edition of Who Wants To Be a Millionaire will open with a special tribute to the late Regis Philbin. The irreplaceable television icon died on July 24 at age 88, following over six decades in showbusiness. Jimmy Kimmel is now hosting Millionaire, which will kick off its new season on Sunday, Oct. 18 at 9 p.m. ET on ABC.
On Thursday, ABC released the special tribute video that will air at the start of the premiere. The segment includes a sweet moment when Kimmel met Philbin, who showed up at the set during Kimmel's first season as host. "It was great to see him and it was exciting to just have him there because this is - you know, I'm hosting this show, but this is his show," Kimmel said. "Ultimately, [with] Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, it's like he left me a beautiful car."
“I’m so glad that Millionaire showed America and the world the outstanding broadcaster that Regis was. It made him a bigger star and more of a household name and brought him so much joy,” Michael Davies, the original Millionaire producer, told the New York Post. "Seeing that show succeed [for Regis] meant a lot to me. It was very important to Jimmy and I that we give Regis a proper tribute."
Davies said Philbin was a big fan of Kimmel's work even before he began hosting Jimmy Kimmel Live, noting that Philbin invited Kimmel to compete on an early celebrity edition of Millionaire even before he was famous. “He was proud and felt he was somewhat responsible for bringing Jimmy on television,” Davies said. “There was a great affection between the two men; you could see it on every guest appearance Regis made on Jimmy Kimmel Live."
Philbin hosted Who Wants To Be a Millionaire at the height of its popularity, from 1999 to 2002. He hosted revivals in 2004 and 2009. Meredith Vieira, Cedric the Entertainer, Terry Crews, and Chris Harrison hosted the syndicated daytime versions. Kimmel's version, which features celebrity contestants playing for charity, aired its first season earlier this year. Kimmel's second season will start with comedian Tiffany Haddish as the celebrity contestant. Each episode will also feature a frontline worker, beginning with firefighter Oliver Fry.
After Philbin died in July, Kimmel called him a "great broadcaster, a good friend, and a tremendous amount of fun." Philbin "leaves behind a beautiful family and a TV legacy that will likely go unmatched," Kimmel tweeted. "Regis, I hope our friend [Don] Rickles met you at the pearly gates with open arms and a slew of the insults you loved so much."