Kathie Lee Returns to TV

Five years after tearfully bidding farewell to morning talk to pursue a singing and acting career, Kathie Lee Gifford will return to television Sept. 12 to cover singers and actors.

Her beat will be Broadway, where she will conduct interviews for for Paramount’s syndicated entertainment- magazine show, The Insider.

Gifford, who has signed a one-year deal with the show, will serve as a special correspondent.

The addition of the popular former co-host of Live with Regis & Kathie Lee is intended to “up the ante further in the competitive arena” of entertainment and celebrity news, Linda Bell Blue, executive producer of both The Insider and Entertainment Tonight, tells B&C.

Bell Blue says she chose Gifford, a familiar face on Broadway, because a number of major film stars, including Julia Roberts and Denzel Washington, are working in theater. Says Bell Blue, “It is the perfect time for us to cover this.”

The Insider, which is one of only two nationally syndicated freshman shows (the other is Tony Danza) returning for a second season, has a 2.6 average audience rating through July 31, up from its 2.4 debut last September.

It finishes ahead of veterans Access Hollywood and Extra, thanks in part to airing in tandem with the top-rated magazine, ET (5.0 rating season-to-date), in markets such as New York and Los Angeles.

Having exited the top-rated morning talk show she hosted with Regis Philbin in July 2000 after 15 years on the air, Gifford agreed to return to TV on a regular basis after being pursued by Bell Blue.

“This is the first thing that worked for me both professionally and personally,” says Gifford. Rehearsals for Gifford’s second Broadway play, Hurricane Amy, start Sept. 6, and Gifford says Bell Blue has been “very accommodating” in agreeing to work around her schedule; the season premiere of  The Insider is slated for Sept. 12.

Gifford started her Insider duties last week, taping a three-part interview with red-carpet style maven (and Insider co-correspondent) Steven Cojocaru. Bell Blue expects her to appear on the show twice a week, but Gifford hints it could be more or less, depending on her schedule.