Mike Douglas: In terms of genial hosts whose weekday talk shows are built for fun, Douglas was the grandfather. Operating from Philadelphia for most of his run, he also could delve into the serious, as he did with the real-life spy who allegedly was the model for James Bond.
Phil Donahue: Wearing his heart on his sleeve (just ask wife Marlo Thomas) and thoroughly engaging his audience, both in the studio and by phone, were Donahue trademarks in topical conversations for the better part of 30 years.
Regis Philbin: Almost a year after his departure, daytime television still doesn’t seem the same without the genial, often comically flustered presence whose on-air partners over a record-setting run included Kathie Lee Gifford and the continuing Kelly Ripa.
Oprah Winfrey: Like she wasn’t going to be on this list? Over the course of 25 years, Winfrey became the owner of daytime talk, surpassing such acknowledged idols as Donahue in making the form her own … and truly reshaping innumerable lives by whom and what she showcased.
Rosie O’Donnell: Her public image would change as she became more topical (and controversial), but for several years, then-“Queen of Nice” O’Donnell’s show was the place for viewers and guests alike to go for guaranteed fun.
“The View” hosts: Much of the cast — including O’Donnell — has changed over the ABC show’s history, but Barbara Walters and her combination of female co-hosts have given network television a benchmark in a genre where it previously had problems establishing one.
Dr. Phil McGraw: Got a problem? No matter what it is, this Oprah-mentored psychologist has been more than willing to talk about it candidly in cementing a high-rated daytime hit of his own.
Ellen DeGeneres: Basically inheriting the “good time” mantle that once belonged to O’Donnell, the comedian who loves to dance brings a light touch to her celebrity encounters … while also pulling heartstrings with the literal generosity she has shown many of her fans.
Rachael Ray: If there ever were doubts that cooking and talking can go together, the longtime Food Network personality has dissolved those with her success both in the kitchen and at the chat table.