By ERIC DEGGANS
© St. Petersburg Times, published October 24, 2000
For would-be co-hosts on Live! With Regis, it's the ultimate question: How much is too much?
Too much energy and you come off like a hyperactive rabbit; too little, and you're flattened by host Regis Philbin's boundless attitude.
So it's easy to understand the predicament facing Nancy Alexander when she attempted what was likely the biggest break of her broadcast career -- co-hosting the top-rated morning show Monday as the first of five female radio personalities from across the country who take the hot seat this week.
To her credit, the woman viewers saw on Live! Monday was the same one that Tampa Bay area fans hear daily on WMTX-FM 100.7 and see during her regular feature reports on WTVT-Ch. 13: brash, outgoing and willing to say or do anything for a laugh.
Of course, that also meant Alexander kicked off the show chomping on a breath mint, which she then removed on air (so much for elevating stereotypes about Florida folk). Seconds later, she had plopped a Prada boot on the table to show how much she spent to look good for her close-up with Reege.
Soon after, playing on a joke she cracked last week about rescheduling an ob/gyn appointment to make her Live! gig, the show rolled a pretaped skit showing Alexander in the offices of her doctor, Obi G. Kenobi (get it?) and shopping for clothes.
"The five words a woman fears most: scoot down a little further," cracked Alexander in yet another such reference -- prompting Philbin to retort: "Gelman (Live! executive producer Michael Gelman), she really is getting on my nerves. Can we do something? A hook ... or something?"
Like long-gone co-host Kathie Lee Gifford, Alexander cultivated a jokey antagonism with the volatile Philbin that played well through the show's toughest challenge: the first 10 minutes, where Reege and the co-host du jour dissect the day's events and their offscreen antics. (Note to Nance: Energy is cool, but stepping on the host's story about hanging out with PBS talker Charlie Rose isn't.)
As the pair tackled interviews with actor-turned- 60 Minutes II commentator Charles Grodin -- Alexander had to jump between Mets fan Grodin and Yankees disciple Philbin -- and a crumbling cooking segment with WWF wrestler Chyna, Philbin's broadsides seemed more good-natured ribbing than a cover for true annoyance. (Those who watched him endure an endless week with co-hosts from CBS' Survivor remember what real Reege rage looks like.)
Still, Alexander nailed the gig as well as any first-timer could, scoring enough witty comebacks to win over the crowd while tempering her act enough to avoid looking like the Energizer bunny. When the time finally comes to pick Gifford's permanent replacement, Gelman and Co. could do a lot worse.