- Associated Press - Thursday, August 5, 2010

NEW YORK (AP) - Those legs are made for walking: Longtime “Entertainment Tonight” host Mary Hart said Thursday she’s leaving the show after her upcoming 30th season.

The leading syndicated newsmagazine for entertainment had no immediate comment on reports that Lara Spencer has already been selected as Hart’s successor. Spencer anchors “ET’s” sister broadcast, “The Insider.”

Hart, a former English teacher from Sioux Falls, S.D., joined “Entertainment Tonight” in 1982, with the show not even a year old. She was paired most famously at the anchor desk for 10 years with John Tesh, who left in 1996 to concentrate on his music career. Mark Steines is her current co-anchor.

Hart, 59, was known for shapely legs considered such an asset that “Entertainment Tonight” built a see-through desk on its set to show them off, said Bill Carroll, an expert in the TV syndication market for Katz Television.

“She’s a cultural icon,” he said.

She said she had mixed sentiments about leaving.

“I only meant to be at ‘ET’ for three years,” she said. “Suddenly, it’s almost 30. I’ve reached a point when I clearly realize it’s time for a change. There are many things I want to do in my life and I’d better get on with them.”

“Entertainment Tonight” pioneered a television genre and remains its ratings leader. It still has plenty of the soft features with stars promoting their latest movies, TV shows or music, but now fits in tough reporting on entertainment issues since the topic is given much greater attention in the world of journalism.

It’s not clear when her last day will be. A television season traditionally ends in May.

Mary has been a fixture in our lives and we’ll miss her dearly,” said John Nogawski, president of CBS Television Distribution. “We look forward to celebrating Mary’s career in this exciting season to come.”

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