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Regis roars as other talkers whisper

Here's something you don't see every day: studio executives whooping it up after their talk show tumbles 29% in the ratings from the week before.

But they were doing just that last week after Buena Vista's Live with Regis, in its first time at bat without co-host Kathie Lee, scored a 4.2, compared to Lee's farewell week 5.9 average. That's because that number was still a home run in anyone's score book, topping last year's performance at this time by 27%, according to Nielsen Media Research for the week ending Aug. 6.

Live is up 17% from its season-to-date numbers and has held on to its second-place status among talkers.

But, like Lee's goodbye week, the influx of viewers skewed older. Live grabbed a 5.2 among women 55-plus, but only a 2.0 in the more ad-friendly women 18-49 bracket.

Live's rivals slipped less in the weekly household ratings, but with arguably more negative results. In a rare departure from the norm, the group's leader, Oprah, was pushed out of the top five syndicated series, down 16% to 5.1. Compared to the same time last year, Oprah is down 11%.

In fact, none of the 11 current talk entries improved. Rosie (2.5) was down 11%, recording her worst numbers for the third straight week. Rosie is also down 22% from the same time in August 1999. Following Live, were Jerry Springer (4.1, down 2%), Maury (down 8%, 3.7), Montel (3.2, down 6%), Sally (3.1, down 6%), Jenny (2.7, down 10%) Ricki (2.7, down 7%), Martha Stewart (1.6, flat) and Queen Latifah (1.2, down 8%).

Some of this could just be chalked up to traditionally low TV viewing levels in the summer. But with exception of Maury (up 6%), every talk show is down vs. this time last year, with seven in double-digit doldrums. In addition to Oprah and Rosie, others affected are Jerry Springer (down 21%), Sally (down 16%), Jenny (down 23%), Ricki (down 18%) and Martha Stewart (down 16%).