Regis to Host New 'This Is Your Life'

Regis Philbin is returning to prime time by taking a page from TV's past.

The motor-mouth morning show fave who used to host "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" will emcee a revival of the 1950s Ralph Edwards heirloom, "This is Your Life," for ABC, splitting his day between the series of six to eight specials and "Live with Regis & Kelly."

"I remember watching it ['Life'] a long time ago," Philbin told The Post Thursday. "It was one of the best shows on TV."

Philbin says the new "Life" specials will most likely feature celebrities.

The return of "Life" seems to be part of TV's continuing obsession with the past, in which old ideas or concepts that have worked for competitors are recycled or copied.

For next season, FOX is also behind a revival of sorts. A TV version of "The Terminator" is in the works.

"Realistically, TV doesn't operate on originality," says Mediaweek's TV analyst Marc Berman. "More often than not, it's about taking something that worked in another form and doing it a different way. Just because 'This is Your Life' worked in the 1940s and 1950s doesn't mean it will work today."

Tell that to the millions of fans who tuned in to "Life" for years.

"Life" first debuted in the 1940s as a radio show. After the original TV show ended its nine-season run on NBC in 1961, it returned twice in syndication (both for brief periods in the early 1970s and then in the 1980s).

On the series, Edwards would surprise a guest of honor -- a celebrity or ordinary member of the studio audience -- and read his or her biography from a large, specially prepared book, revisiting the high points with the help of guests from the past, such as old teachers or long-lost friends.

"You surprise someone, sit them down, let them catch their breath and then parade their life in front of them," Philbin says. "It's not easy to surprise someone anymore with something like this, but it can be done if you get cooperation from somebody -- a friend or a family member -- to help set it up."

The format of "Life" was always set up to wring the maximum amount of emotion out of the guest of honor and the visitors.