May 25, 2005 08:00 AM

Bickering as they never had before – at least in their four years on TV together – Live! With Regis and Kelly hosts Regis Philbin and Kelly Ripa acted uncharacteristically hostile toward one another on Tuesday morning’s show, prompting the show’s producer to rush to the duo’s defense.

“It’s part of the fun banter,” Michael Gelman – who at one point on camera Tuesday told Regis and Kelly, “Why don’t you guys just hug and move on with the show?” – tells the New York Post. “It’s a faux husband-and-wife relationship. They spend an hour a day together, and they mix it up. … It’s not about everything smiling and happy. It’s about them jibbing and jabbing each other.”

And jib and jab they did, as the Post chronicles.

The first volley appears to have come from Regis, responding to Kelly’s going on too long during the opening monologue. He said: “More or less today, we have reached a bit of realistic crossroads. … Have you ever heard one of your seven-minute rants?” Responded Kelly: No. I try to squeeze it in between your 11-minute rants.

Regis later called Kelly on the carpet for interrupting his views on Tom Cruise’s appearance on Oprah. Later, the two tiffed over a dirty look Kelly allegedly delivered to her cohost before the show that morning.

“All I did was look at you!” she countered. This is when Gelman stepped in. And, as he later told the Post: “There’s a lot of love between them.”

As for what really fueled the display, Gelman added: “You probably saw some over-caffeinated moments.”

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